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Speculations III

speculationsjournal@gmail.com www.speculations-journal.org Editors Michael Austin Paul J. Ennis Fabio Gironi Thomas Gokey Robert Jackson

isbn 978-0988234017 Front Cover: unanswered: witness Grace Lutheran Church Parking Lot, Linwell Road, St. Catharines, June 2003 by P. Elaine Sharpe Back Cover: unanswered: witness Flight Simulation Training Center, Opa Locka Airport, FLA, December 2002 by P. Elaine Sharpe Courtesy of P. Elaine Sharpe, used with permission. pesharpe.com The focal distance in these photograph is at the normal range of human conversational distance, 3 meters. Although the image may appear to be out of focus, it is focused on the absence of human presence. Designed by Thomas Gokey v 1.0

punctum books brooklyn, ny 2012

Editorial Introduction Articles Re-asking the Question of the Gendered Subject after Non-Philosophy Benjamin Norris Thing Called Love
That Old, Substantive, Relation


Beatrice Marovich 69

The Other Face of God

Lacan, Theological Structure, and the Accursed Remainder

Levi R. Bryant 99

Improper Names for God

Religious Language and the Spinoza-Eect

Daniel Whistler

Namelessness and the Speculative Turn Daniel Colucciello Barber Diagonals

Truth-Procedures in Derrida and Badiou A Response to Whistler



Christopher Norris

Synchronicity and Correlationism

Carl Jung as Speculative Realist


Michael Haworth

Translations ber stellvertretende Verursachung Graham Harman Speculative Realism

After nitude, and beyond?

210 241

Louis Morelle

Position Papers and Interview 273 Outward Bound Christian Thorne 290 367
On Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude

The Noumenons New Clothes (Part 1) Peter Wolfendale Of Realist Turns

A conversation with Stathis Psillos

Fabio Gironi

Reviews 426 In Defense of Unfashionable Causes The Democracy of Objects by Levi Bryant Daniel Sacilotto Assessing the French Atheistic Turn Dicult Atheism: Post-theological thought in Badiou, Nancy and Meillassoux by Christpher Watkin Fabio Gironi Fight and Flight Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination by Andy Merrield Dave Mesing 499 507 Circus Philosophicus by Graham Harman Maxwell Kennel Joseph Nechvatals nOise anusmOs Installation Yuting Zou
Merrields Magical Convulsions



Editorial Introduction

e are proud to say that this third volume of Speculations needs very little support from our editorial introduction. We have done our best to collect, in the pages that follow, outstanding contributions covering a wide range of topics (from the philosophy of religion to psychoanalysis, from the philosophy of science to gender studies), formats (articles, interviews, position pieces, translations and review essays) and authors (from well-published authors to the best among a new generation of philosophers). We would like to thank all the contributors and the peer reviewers for their patient collaboration during the editorial phase. We are also very grateful to the Atelier de mtaphysique et dontologie contemporaines at the cole Normale Suprieure, and their group of English translators (Mark Ohm, Leah Orth, Jon Cogburn and Emily Beck) for allowing us to publish the translation of one of their publications. Finally, we like to think that, with each new issue, Speculations grows and develops its own peculiar identity as more than just another academic journal: a space for the appraisal of, and critical reection upon, the contemporary and ever5

Speculations III developing philosophical scene. It is an ambitious aim, but there can be no speculations without a modicum of audacity. We hope youll enjoy reading this new materialization of the Speculations project with as much excitement as we experienced while we were assembling it.

Re-asking the Question of the Gendered Subject after Non-Philosophy1

Benjamin Norris
The New School for Social Research, New York

s a science of (non-)gender Identity constitution possible? What would be the object and proper method of this science? And, most importantly, what new spaces of (non-)philosophical investigation can be opened in light of such an analysis? At some point in time during its perpetual production and proliferation of problems, philosophy stumbled across a problem it called the subject. As time passed and philosophy
1 Three people in particular made this paper possible in its present form. I would rst like to thank Professor Alan Bass, as much of the reading of Freud contained herein is largely inuenced by his work and lectures. Although he is only directly cited once, his work on Freud and Derrida is responsible for my focus on the primacy of time and disavowal in Freuds thought. I would secondly like to thank Anthony Paul Smith for his criticisms and comments on the rst two drafts of this paper. It is hard to come by informed and insightful feedback on Laruelle, especially in America (even in continental circles), and my understanding of Laruelle and hopefully the engagement with his work contained herein has been exponentially increased and aided by way of Anthonys help. Finally, I would like to thanks Professor Richard J. Bernstein for encouraging me to pursue my diverse interests in philosophy, including my work with Laruelle. Hes says hell make a pragmatist out of me one day and I in turn hope to convince him that non-philosophy is in spirit not that far from the work of thinkers like Peirce and Dewey.

Speculations III roared on, the question of the subject has taken many dierent forms, been approached with many dierent methods and has yielded incredibly diverse and distinct answers.We have now come to a point where we no longer need to ask philosophically what is the subject? and how is the subjects individuality constituted? but instead ask non-philosophically how has philosophy produced its hypotheses, conditioned its methods and pre-determined its conclusions regarding the subject? In the following, I will show that a non-philosophical analysis, as a form of rigorous and scientic analysis of philosophical problems, can point toward a science that investigates the fractal nature of the temporal (non-)interaction between the transcendental and the empirical selves. By bypassing the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock one can produce new and expansive (explosive even) methods of theorizing gender identity as always at once a playful, generative experiment and a unique unity that can provided an immediate site of resistance toward external (and internal) negative determinations. Non-philosophy aords us the seemingly contradictory ability to fall to neither a transcendent universalizing of gender by way of static categories that are then applied to individuals and distinct subjects, nor to a destruction of a unitary self that never persists in the wake of the ux and contingency of experience and thus marks the opportunity for the much needed expansion of the discourses driving theoretical feminisms, queer theories and, more generally, theories of subjective individuation and constitution. I proceed in four parts. Part I is a non-genealogy, inuenced by the non-philosophical method, of the philosophical permutations of the question of the subject. Part II explicitly introduces Franois Laruelle into the discussion and attempts to begin articulating the new spaces of study non-philosophy opens in the discourse of the subject. Part III builds on the opening developed in Part II in order to argue that a science of (non-)gender Identity constitution must psychoanalytically interpret the productive nature of an unconscious structured by a fractalized temporal inner sense. Part IV will 8

Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question then compare and contrast the account provided in Part III to a more traditional non-philosophical understanding of the unilateral relationship between a temporally driven unconscious, Identity and the Real. Part I The (non-)Genealogy In his extensive study of philosophies of dierence, Laruelle warns the reader that we do not pursue here the absurd project [...], of showing that Derrida amounts to the same thing as Nietzsche or even Heidegger.2 Here I will follow a similar method circling around the question of the subject instead of the question of dierence. Although I will point out structural similarities between the seven thinkers discussed, it will be shown that these similarities are a result of the philosophical decision itself and not the result of a direct inuence between the thinkers. In general Laruelle writes, a philosophical decision is a cutrepeated or relaunchedwith regard to an empirical singular, or more generally, some given and, at the same time, an identication with an idealizing law of this given, itself supposed as real, a transcendence towards a veritable real.3 The philosophical decision, in an attempt to achieve the philosophizable-all (the telos of the principle of sucient philosophy) is driven time and time again to universalize contingent givens and attribute to them a privileged access to the real and the true. The singular example is subsumed under the universal law, creating a dueling relationship of co-determination and auto-legitimation. What sets non-philosophy apart from this vicious philosophical circle that auto-arms itself is its ability to isolate and then separate the empirical and the ideal, or the given and the idealizing law of the given, by way of an acceptance of the radically foreclosed nature of the Real. The non-philosopher is relieved of her passion for the real
2 Franois Laruelle, Philosophies of Dierence: A Critical Introduction to NonPhilosophy (London and New York: Continuum, 2010), 17. 3

Ibid., 198.

Speculations III by thinking alongside the Real, (of) the Real and not of the Real. Laruelle writes that The hiatus between the empirical and the ideal, which we have posited the possibility of lifting (in the form of an a priori relation, before then lifting it really through the passage to transcendental essence), is now denitively re-opened and lets a new kind of gap be glimpsed that is no longer that of the empirical and the ideal, or of empiricism and rationalism.4 The non-decisional genealogy of the question of the subject in its various philosophical permutations can allow us to both identify and subsequently break philosophys self-created empirico-transcendental deadlock regarding the question of the subject, and more particularly the gendered subject. This will be a non-genealogy in the sense that it will posit the equivalence of all the individual philosophical decisions discussed. The history of the question of the subject to be traced can be tentatively characterized as a continuing battle between the transcendent and the immanent in which the two categories oscillate, re-dene and subordinate one another. By immanent I mean any theory that denes identity in terms of a ux of empirical and/or virtual elements that are selforganized by way of repetition and cannot be reduced to a universal, unexperienced category. By transcendent I mean any theory of identity that appeals to a universal, external and never experienced, true self. I will introduce the extremes of the immanent/transcendent stories of the subject to be traced later on by beginning with a contrasting of Descartes individually discovered and purely transcendent cogito with Humes decentralized and purely immanent self. I will then move to Kant and his attempt to preserve both Descartes cogito as well as acknowledge Humes theory regarding the ux of the immanent self. Here Kant presents himself with a problem: how can one reconcile the chaotic empirical self with the universal and transcendental self? We will see that introduction of time as a productive inner sense and mediator between the seemingly irreconcilable Cartesian and

Laruelle, Philosophies of Dierence, 198 [emphasis added, B.N.].


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question Humean selves was an invention of Kants that opens a strange, and incredibly relevant, third space. Next, in Husserl and Sartre, we will witness how the transcendental ego is lost in light of Sartres analysis of Husserl in The Transcendence of the Ego. This loss of the transcendental ego in Sartres early existentialism provides the space for all following theories of the de-centered, fragmented and/or deconstructed subject. Here the immanent seems to re-establishes primacy over the transcendent. The primacy of immanence, postulated by Hume and re-vitalized by Sartre retains its inuence in the contemporary continental discourse on gender and identity. To exemplify this, I will briey discuss the way Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler inherit and re-iterate this discourse and the limitations they inherit with it. This history will exemplify the role the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock has continuously played in discussions of subjective constitution and gender identity by extension. In each analysis, we will not seek to argue for the validity or lack thereof in each account. We will instead seek to identify the idealized law or philosophically hallucinated transcendental concept and the contingent empirical singular in each theory as well as point toward the new kind of gap opened by a non-philosophical analysis of the philosophical decision as it pertains to the question of the subject. I Descartes Some credit Descartes with the honor of being the father of the question of the subject. This original account is often seen, rightly in my view, as a radically one sided answer to this question. Quite simply, for Descartes I am, then, in the strict sense only a thing that thinks, that is, I am a mind, or intelligence, or intellect, or reason [...] But for all that I am a thing which is real and truly exists. But what kind of a thing? As I have just saida thinking thing.5 By privileging
5 Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy in Descartes selected Philosophical Writings (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 27.


Speculations III the thinking self as the core of the subject, Descartes is infamously lead to completely dismiss the body (I am not that structure of limbs which is called a human body6) and the empirical because it cannot live up to the same universality and indubitability as the transcendent and unchanging cogito. The body and its senses are fallible, for Descartes, and can thus not ground any certain theory of the subject. The question of the subject is here, at its origins, answered rmly in favor of the transcendent over the immanent. The thinking self is posited as the idealized and universal law and the body and senses are merely contingent manifestations subordinated to the self as a universal thinking thing. II Hume Humes theory of subjective constitution attens all identity into a ux of empirical perceptions and passions and thus exemplies the absolute opposite of a Cartesian thinking and unied self. Humes strict empiricism leads him to conclude that any idea of an identity or self that pre-exists and persists throughout all experience is simply a constructed ction, based only in habit (repetition), custom and belief. There is no transcendent ground for the subjects identity. The mind infers or ascribes an identity to an object when it observes only a gradual change in it. No impression of Identity is found in the object itself. It is instead only a product of the imagination relating dierent impressions to each other. The same thing holds true for personal identity. Beyond the immanent, there is no transcendent self: the mind, in following the successive changes of the body, feels an easy passage from the surveying its condition in one moment to the viewing of another, and so at no time perceives any interruption in its actions. From which continud perception, it ascribes a continud existence and identity to the object.7 We can only
6 7

Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, 27.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford University Press: New York, 1967), 256.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question infer and ascribe identity through articial ideas that are not based on any simple impression found in experience. Because there is no impression that corresponds to the idea of the self as universal and unchanging, Hume argues that the self is ultimately nothing more than a tumultuous collection of shifting passions and sensations; I may venture to arm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of dierent perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual ux and movement.8 We should recall that for Hume the very notion of an identity must be something xed and unchanging throughout time. If the self is indeed nothing more than a changing ux of perceptions, then no such transcendent stability can be found. The point Hume is making is that when we ascribe to ourselves an Identity that depends on a concept of stability and universality, we lapse into a ctitious account. But if we are to instead consider the self as something that is the product, and not the producer, of changes in ideas, passions and perceptions over time, then we can speak of a self without contradiction. What is important to draw out of Humes work on the self is that he attempts to completely dismiss any sort of transcendent ground for a permanent self. For Hume, this self, as a xed, stable and eternally self-identifying unity, cannot be found in the world and must therefore not exist at all. Any account of self as unied Identity is simply a ction constructed by culture and produced by habituation. There are no secret or transcendent criteria that identity is measured against. Instead, experience internally produces customs and habits that constitute, in a largely contingent fashion, our conception of self. This means that gender could never be universally and permanently constitutive. Individuation, on this account, is an empirical contingency, following a ow of passions that is only categorized by contingent socio-cultural categories established and re-established through the habitual repetitions of belief and customs. Here the immanent ux

Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 252.


Speculations III of perceptions is the idealized law of the self and the plastic formation of habits and beliefs by way of repetition is the empirical contingent.9 III Kant In an attempt to both grant to Hume that causality, space and time do not appear directly in experience but also hold that space and time are necessary conditions for experience Kant invents a transcendental idealism to deduce that space, time, cause and eect are still necessary in order for there to be any experience even if they are never present/presented in experience, as Humes copy-principle (ideas derived from impressions) would necessitate. Kant eectively bridges the two extremes of Descartes and Hume through the claim that the cogito is a necessary product of the transcendental imaginations temporal structure. Kant claims that:
For the empirical consciousness, which accompanies dierent representations, is in itself diverse and without relation to the identity of the subject. [] Only in so far, therefore, as I can unite a manifold of given representations in one consciousness, is it possible for me to represent myself to the identity of the consciousness in [i.e. throughout] these representations10

Here Kant identies two aspects of consciousness. There is

9 Hume gives us, in my opinion, the rst true account of what will later come to be known as a philosophy of dierence. His account of the inuence of repetition on the contingency of beliefs and habits can in a way, unlike Descartes, account for both the iteration of the illusion (belief, habit) of the self as permanent identity based on alteration (the self as common wealth: In this respect I cannot but compare the soul more properly to anything than to a republic or a common wealth, [] as the same republic may not only change its members, but also its laws and constitutions; in a like manner the same person may vary his character and disposition, as well as his impressions and ideas, without losing his identity [Hume, Ibid., 261]) accounting for the ux of the manifestation the self of individuals. 10 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2003), b 133.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question the diverse ux of empirical consciousness and the unifying identity that is exposed not in experience but in the very fact that we can have unied representations of experience. The former can evade the later but is incomprehensible without it. In this characterization we are presented with a strict binary between empirical (lived experience) and transcendental (reective and determinative abstraction). Kant retains from Hume the idea that our experience of ourselves is always diverse and variable. But Kant does add another level of consciousness that is necessary for there to be any account of experience at all. By creating the binary between transcendental and empirical consciousness Kant is left with the trouble of explaining how the transcendental consciousness can have any relation at all to the empirical consciousness. In order to bridge this gap, Kant turns to time, the inner sense. Kant claims that:
I exist as an intelligence which is conscious solely of its power of combination; but in respect to the manifold which it has to combine I am subjected to a limiting condition (entitled inner sense), namely, that this combination can be made intuitable only according to the relations of time, which lie entirely outside the concepts of the understanding, strictly regulated.11

Any relation of my empirical self to my transcendental self is both guided by and limited by the inner sense of time. For Kant, the I that accompanies all experience yet is never presented in any particular experience is only generated and reveled through the combination of manifolds into representations in the unity of apperception. This process of combination is necessarily regulated by a time that is an a priori form of intuition that can never be captured as a concept of the understanding. Hence, time, as the productive connecter between the empirical and the transcendental consciousness, is both necessary for and inaccessible to the understanding. Time is a bridge between the un-bridgeable

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, b 159.


Speculations III that can never be reduced to that which it bridges. As a pure form of intuition it never subordinates the transcendental to the empirical or vice versa. Time is here what will be called below a fractalized free-play of the between-two. Several key aspects of the interplay between temporality and consciousness in Kant must be emphasized as they will become relevant in Part III of this paper. First, Kant preserves an element of Humes thought by emphasizing the diverse and variable nature of the empirical consciousness that is without relation to the identity of the subject. Secondly, identity is an accomplishment of the unication of a manifold through time as the inner sense, so Kant also retains a form of the necessary, universal yet never experienced self-created through a unique temporal synthesis. Third, although time as inner sense is the only source of our awareness of our transcendental consciousness and the only form of interaction between the empirical and transcendental consciousness, this inner sense is an a priori form of intuition which is itself both beyond conceptualization by the understanding and never encountered in experience. And nally, this temporal synthesis must be understood as a very particular form of synthesis that, when reinterpreted in light of Laruelles work, can barely be called a synthesis. In a strange way, Kant allows for both a ux of the empirical self as well as a universal and unied I that accompanies all experiences yet is never in these experiences without subordinating one to the other automatically. The invention of time as an inner sense is, in my reading, the rst glimpse of the gap non-philosophical analysis later opens. IV Husserl-Sartre At this point I want to continue the non-genealogy and move on to the distinct shift that takes place in the discourse of the subject manifested in the existentialist innovation. The transition from Husserl to Sartre chronicles a return to a more Humean understanding of the self. Instead of arguing for a unied I that structures all experience while remaining 16

Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question outside of experience, Sartre argues that it is experience itself that produces the ego. We once again return to a privileging of immanent or empirical criteria of personal constitution. The empirical no longer needs to be compared to or referred back to some category that is not experienced, in this case Husserls transcendental ego. The discourse of the subject is at this point thrown in to the depth of the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock where it remains. The ego, in Husserls Cartesian Meditations, is transcendental and always outside of the world. Even though it is outside of the world, it shows itself through its various intentional acts toward objects. The ego then, through its decisions, shows itself in a style that presents or expresses a unied identity or personal character. The transcendental ego itself is personalized, in the sense that there is always an I that acts as a condition of possibility for experience, but there is also a personal character expressed in the world through the decisions of the transcendental I that lives through the multiplicity of decisions. This ego is always my ego. It is me before I am myself in the world. Personality is what is shown through my decisions, valuations, etc. during my interactions with the world but it is never in the world. Sartre reverses Husserls account of the ego and posits that experience precedes and produces the idea of a transcendental ego. Because experience creates the ego, the transcendental ego is rendered superuous. Hence consciousness is rst and foremost a pure spontaneity and freedom, and it must remain spontaneous and free at each moment. States, actions, and qualities are reectively shown/created after the fact but are never determining factors at the start that emanate out of a transcendental ego pole.12 With existentialism, we nd a return to a purely immanent I that reectively and retrospectively produces a transcendent ego that it is not in turn dependent on or reducible to. The self is once again fragmented and has no dependence upon any

Jean-PaulSartre, The Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness (Hill and Wang: New York, 1991), 71.


Speculations III external criteria. It has gained a new freedom of expression, but it has, as a consequence, lost any form of pre-empirical unity. The history of thinkers surveyed, for the most part (Kant being our exception), exemplify not the irreconcilability of the question of the subject itself but instead the un-decidability of the oscillating battle between the privileging of either the permanent and un-experienced Cartesian self, or the chaotic ux of the Humean, immanent self. The question of the subject has been answered in the form of either privileging the immanent ux and turning becoming into the ideal law and reducing universal categories to mere contingent illusions (Hume, Sartre) or by turning the transcendent unied self into the ideal law and subordinating the uxes immanent self into an irrelevant or largely insignicant factor (Descartes, Husserl). This is and has been a problem for quite a while, but it becomes further complicated with the advent of the question of the gendered subject, especially the question of the gendered subject after queer theories. Thinkers now search for a way to completely decentralize and dismiss any binary category dening gender identity from the outside. If dierence is privileged in theories of subjective gender constitution, fragmentation becomes the law, but, just as problematically, if the universal self is made the law, individual dierences cannot be theoretically accounted for and practically respected. V Butler-Lacan Feminist theory, in a certain sense, was born through a critique of the applicability of universal determinations of man and woman to distinct individuals. Lived gender was found to be inaccurately described by and irreducible to the universal givens handed down, both pre-determined and unjustly determining. Thinkers began looking more closely at the existential conditions under which one became either a man or a woman (the Sartrean resonance should be stressed here). In some ways we return to a Humean theorizing of the self as an empirically contingent bundle of perceptions. As 18

Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question Hume claims I may venture to arm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of dierent perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual ux and movement.13 The self is a ux; it is an ever changing and shifting bundle of perceptions. In a like fashion, Sartre emphasizes that, the ego maintains its qualities through a genuine, continuous creation. Nevertheless, we do not nally apprehend the ego as a pure creative source apart from its qualities.14 The ego, for Sartre, is also a creative product of ever-changing interactions with the world. The self by no means stays stable. It is instead, just as Hume suggested, a collection of changing experiences and perceptions placing the self in a state of perpetual ux and movement. In both cases, the self shifts according to its experiences within the world. It is always a product and not a producer of these dierent experiences. The existential account of gender constitution was then challenged by the advent of queer theories and their crucial critique of the heteronormative essence of even these more existential accounts. In order to expand our understanding of gender constitution in a way that can positively account for a multiplicity of gender identities, most of which cannot be simply reduced to heterosexual man or heterosexual woman, fragmentation and ux seem to become the law. In this situation, the emphasis of the importance of lived dierence is pushed to its most extreme limit but also encounters a very serious problem. The gendered identity is always an identity founded upon an experience of complete fragmentation and aggressive alienation from any form of unied identity in the wake of the chaos of their empirical and individual gendered experience. For Hume, the original thinker of the self as perpetual ux, there was no transcendent and universal criteria whatsoever to determine the self and there was thus no conict between empirical reality and transcendent illusion. What comes to characterize a large

Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 252. Sartre, Transcendence of the Ego, 78.



Speculations III number of prevalent contemporary theories of subjective constitution is that they are actually driven by an inherent tension between the empirical ux and the transcendent illusion. Thus the current discussions of gender identity are characterized by what Laruelle would call a duel relationship between the transcendent illusion of the unied I and the empirical exuous self. Furthermore, what we will see is that this duel is not simply a consequence of individual shortcomings in the theories presented that can be remedied philosophically. Laruelle argues that this is simply a consequence of the philosophical decision regarding the primacy of dierence Dierence arms the superiority if their [the law and the given] combat.15 To exemplify this duel, let us turn to Lacan and Butler. For Lacan, the I (as Je) is the product of a necessary and fundamental mis-recognition/identication of oneself (as moi) and ones specular image (as ideal-I) during his infamous mirror stage. This mis-recognition and the desire to remedy this fundamental fragmentation between the experienced body and the ideal imago of the body serves as the condition of possibility for both the subjects aggression and desire as well as the subjects entry into the symbolic register. This conict is ultimately a battle between the irreconcilability of space and time. Space, in Lacans account, includes the imaginary space of the universal, ideal and static imagos acquired in early infant experience and most dramatically in the mirror stage. The universal and timeless imagos stand in direct conict with the temporal experience of the imperfect, fragile and dependent body. As a consequence, mans ego is never reducible to his lived experience.16 The temporal, dependent and vulnerable individual desires an ideal-I that can never be attained but only asymptotically approached.17 The subject, now fragmented through a desire

Laruelle, Philosophies of Dierence, 8.

Jacques Lacan, Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis, crits (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006), 114.
16 17

See Lacan, The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function as Revealed


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question for the transcendent universal, enters into the symbolic realm and attempts to complete herself through the desire of the other. The constitution of gender identity is now actually driven by an active and irreconcilable conict between transcendent lack and immanent fragmentation. Fragmentation and conict are now at the core of the development of the individuals gender identity. Dierentiation and, more importantly, conict become the law. The most dominate theoretical continuation of this Lacanian perspective and its potential for providing an account of gender identity in its true state of diversity (non-heteronormative) is articulated by Judith Butler.18 Here I want to briey draw out the way Butlers 1988 essay Preformative acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory exemplies Butlers inheritance of the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock showing us that ultimately even philosophies of gender constitution founded in dierence are equally susceptible to the nonphilosophical critique. Butler begins her account with a reference to the founding gure of feminist existentialism:
When Simone de Beauvoir claims, one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman, she is appropriating and reinterpreting this doctrine of constituting acts from the phenomenological tradition. In this sense, gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in timean identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts.19

Hume and Sartre speak powerfully in this claim. The self, as immanent ux, is privileged above all else. Constitution of
in Psychoanalytic Experience, in crits, 94.
18 I want to acknowledge here that this account of Butlers work is by no means extensive and is not meant to be a critique. Butlers work makes important advancements after her 1988 essay discussed here, distancing herself from Lacan, but due to space, these advancements cannot be discussed here. 19 Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory, in Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4, (Dec., 1988), 519.


Speculations III gender is a repetition of stylized acts of expression. Gender is not pre-determined by some transcendent essence but is instead created continuously by the spontaneity of the immanent self.
If the ground of gender identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a dierent sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style.20

The gender constituting act is an empirical expression and the very fragmentation of the self is what provides a site for subversive repetition of that style. In an attempt to account for the largest possible plurality of gendered expression, Butler decides in favor of dierence and ux, standing in opposition to transcendence and binary universal categories. Yet the loss of the transcendent or transcendental ego does not completely rid discussions of subjective gender constitution of the duel-isms that have plagued it at least since Descartes nor of the oppositional structure inherent in the philosophical decision. Butler and Lacan both follow Hume and Sartre by turning the ux of the individual into the law but they, in addition to this, posit an inherent tension between the universal ideal and the fragmented self (taken in this decision to be the law of the Real) and seem to actually elevate conict itself to the status of the ideal law governing subjective constitution. The purely transcendent I of Descartes is fundamentally unable to account for the diversity of the empirical expression of individual selves. On the other hand, the purely chaotic or fragmented self of Sartre, Lacan or Butler cannot account for or maintain any form of unity and ultimately becomes characterized only by opposition, lack or aporia. Through its decision, philosophy can only think either unity or dierence and through its desire for suciency, the philosophical resolution of the

Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution, 520.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question either/or always determines and thus hallucinates the Real. In the next Part, I will show how Laruelles non-relational mode of thinking is able to remove us from the duel-istic deadlock between transcendental subject and the empirical subject, without privileging either one. This method provides a clue to why antimony, conict, tautology, aporia and deadlock might not be the necessary consequence of any investigation into subjective gender constitution, even if they are a necessary consequence of any philosophical investigation into the matter. What comes to the fore in light of this is that the battle against dichotomous and oppositional gender logic can only come in the form of a redenition of time and temporal experience itself and not either the collapsing of the transcendent into the immanent or in privileging the immanent over the transcendent. We must stop giving law to the Real in order to truly subvert the philosophical decisions deadlock. Part II Non-Philosophy, Non-Photography and (non-)Gender Identity Laruelles The Concept of Non-Photography is nothing short than an accessible and insightful masterpiece of disguise and subtlety. In this text, Laruelle isolates and analyzes the way the philosophical decision has constrained philosophical discourse and interpretation of photography into an antinomical battle over the privileging, re-positing and re-privileging of binary relationships. The philosophical decision has an invariant eect upon any subject matter philosophy approaches. Therefore, the non-photography developed in this text can be easily and legitimately translated into a science of (non-)gender Identity constitution. In this section I will demonstrate and develop this claim in order to show how the non-philosophical de-coupling of the empirico-transcendental doublet, which is actually the empirico-transcendental deadlock, can make the space for a consideration of the purely temporal element of gender constitution that can bypass the deadlock philosophy still 23

Speculations III harbors in its core. What is unique about the opening Laruelle provides for our analysis is that it points to a third term in gender constitution yet does not require us to replace the law or given of the earlier theories of subjective constitution. Laruelles position on the (non-)relationship of the transcendental and empirical self can be summarized by the following claim made in The Concept of Non-Photography:
The cause [] no longer corresponds to the transcendental subject, nor do the conditions of existence correspond to an empirical conditioning in the sense in which the philosopher understands it. Photography [non-philosophy] along with symbolic modes of thought, radical phenomenologies, non-Euclidian generalizations and, in general in the spirit of Abstraction, has contributed to identifying the transcendental and the empirical as functions of a specic process, and to the distinguishing of this usages from their philosophical puttinginto-correlation, the empirico-transcendental doublet.21

The non-philosophical gendered subject would be one that is immediately experienced apart from any empirical or transcendental philosophical determination. It would resemble what Laruelle terms the identity photo or photographic identity. The proper photographic identity can only be discovered by way of a non-philosophical science because science eliminates from itself the philosophical correlation between fact and principle, between the rational faktum and its possibility; it describes and manifests simultaneously the being-photo (of) the photo, photographic identity as such, such as it is deployed from its real cause to its eective conditions of existence and lls in this between-two.22 The science of non-photography does not reduce the identity of the photo to either its transcendental conditions (the camera and other technological apparatuses of photographic production) or to the empirical content of the photo (the scene it represents
21 Franois Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography, (Urbanomic/Sequence Press: New York. 2010), 42. 22

Ibid., 42.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question expresses etc.).The identity of the photo, and correlatively of the (non-)gendered Identity, is something that is not reducible to either the immanent (philosophically understood) or the transcendent. The photographic identity is more properly the space between the proposed doublet/deadlock. Using The Concept of Non-Photography let us further develop a concept of (non-)gender Identity. For Laruelle, the photo (properly understood) is an absolute reection, without mirror, unique each time but capable of an innite power ceaselessly to secrete multiple identities.23 The photo is always immediate and unique, yet it retains the power of multiple and ceaseless iteration. It is never reducible to either the technology it is produced with (the ideal law of the photo) or the scene which it represents (the contingent empirical given). The surface of the photo, in its immediate experience, is always an innite fractal surface, and its fractal nature provides the innite surface without depth upon which the photographic experience is placed. Yet, The fractalized wall carries no signication.24 The fractal nature of the surface resists all signication not because it is un-signiable but because it is omni-signicant, and the fractal nature of this omni-signicance is what allows for the photos ability to secrete multiple identities at any point in time while retaining a unique, unitary and inexhaustible identity. In his analysis of the photo and theories of photography Laruelle attempts to show how the introduction of a fractal surface of the photo can provide us with a synthesis of the modern and the postmodern25 How can this be possible and how is this claim in anyway dierent from previous attempt to reconcile empirical with transcendent consciousness? Laruelle writes that:
If the ontological destination of Abstraction were the void as either Being, fractality realizes the synthesis of the most undierentiated

Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography, 82. Ibid., 126. Ibid., 137.

24 25


Speculations III
void and of the most dierentiated concreteness [...] Neither the empirical and transcendent content, nor the puried void, the purism of the abstract but a synthesis that reconciles the opposites without summarily hybridizing them.26

The fractal surface is the plane of synthesis that renders synthesis itself incomprehensible. It in no way reproduces hybridizations of the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock. It instead discards the never-ending co-production of subordination in order to discover an immediate unity, capable of innite and never determinative or exhaustive dierentiation. Gender can now be understood as an immediately experienced unity that is never reducible to either its immanent expression or the transcendent category it is measured against. It is never stable yet never fragmented. It is a constant experiment, limited only by itself. Gender is no longer an oppositionally dened splitting into male or female, queer or straight, etc. Yet at the same time, the gendered subject is not simply a fragmented body of meaningless contingencies piled upon contingencies. We no longer need to dene the gendered body in terms reducible to either the immanent or the transcendent, a method that has inevitable resulted in antinomical and auto-justifying philosophical deadlocks. We can instead turn to the fractal nature of temporality as the between-two to ground an experience of gender that is innitely free, unitary and productive, always armative and self-realizing. Gender becomes a pure reection without the funhouse mirror of custom, habit, transcendent gender categories, capitalist fabrication or other distorting eects. Gender is an expression of a fractal temporality that is always-already beyond, and more importantly indierent to and before, any form of binary dicotomization. But here I am presented with a problem. I claim that the object of a rigorous science of (non-)gender Identity constitution would be a fractal temporality. How can time and gender

Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography, 139.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question be connected at all, and can this be done in a way that does not fall prey to the philosophical deadlock I have attempted to exit from above? It is at this point when I must take a heretical turn. Although I do believe that non-philosophy can help us diagnose philosophys constant stumbling block in the discourse of the subject as well as point toward a space for new considerations that might surpass and bypass the philosophical deadlock, Freudian psychoanalysis is needed to provide us with a working conceptual framework by with which to show how gender and time come together. It is here where we must turn to psychoanalysis in order to concretely lay out what a non-decisional investigation of the time (of) gender would look like. Ray Brassier argues that non-philosophys conceptual import can and should be philosophically interpreted.27 I, on the other hand, will suggest that the import of non-philosophy, if it is going to open up a new discussion of the gendered subject, must be psychoanalytically interpreted. Part III Temporality, Psychoanalysis and (non-)Gender Identity Constitution How can an account that relies on the assumption of a productive unconscious that is temporally structured provide us with a theory of subjective gender constitution that can bypass the empirico-transcendental deadlock we used Laruelles work to identify in the above non-genealogy? In order to begin bringing time and gender together, let us here draw the work of Julia Kriseva into our discussion. Krisevas 1981 article Womens Time is an investigation into a confrontation between two distinct temporal dimensions as they relate to gender identity. Kristeva writes that, with sociocultural ensembles of the European type, we are constantly faced with a double problematic: that of their identity constituted by historical sedimentation, and that of
27 Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 119.


Speculations III their loss of identity which is produced by this connection of memories which escape from history only to encounter anthropology.28 European ensembles, understood as historical products, present us with two distinct and oppositional trends: the constitution of identity and the dissolution of identity. How is this double process possible? To understand how the movement of identity formation and loss of identity are simultaneously possible in historical development, we must distinguish between two dierent temporal registers or dimensions: we confront two temporal dimensions: the time of linear history or cursive time (as Nietzsche called it) and the time of another history, thus another time, monumental time (again according to Nietzsche), which englobes these supranational, sociocultural ensembles within even larger entities.29 One time, the time that constitutes universal identity, is logical and linear. The other time, which dissolves identity into fragmented multiplicity, is a monumental movement, irreducible to a linear interpretation that seeks to bind and create larger entities through the dissolution of individual identities. In addition to the cursive and linear generations of temporal experience, which both entail a conict between transcendent universals and immanent ux, Kristeva posits the possibility of a third generation. This third generation is also dened by a distinct experience of temporality, but this is a time that is neither foreign to women, as linear time is, nor a rejection of the historical time exemplied by the second generations post 68 rejection of universal categories. Instead, it can be argued that as of now a third attitude is possible, thus a third generation, which does not exclude [...] the parallel existence of all three in the same historical time, or even that they be interwoven one with the other.30 This third generation oers the promise of both the previous generations without the exclusion or subordination of either temporal dimension.

Julia Kristeva, Womens Time Signs, Vol. 7. No. 1. (Autumn,1981), pp. 13-35. 14. Ibid., 14. Ibid., 33.

29 30


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question For Kristeva, the temporality of the third generation, can signal to an outside of the traditional metaphysics of gender:
In this third attitude, which I strongly advocate [...] the very dichotomy man/woman as an opposition between two rival entities may be understood as belonging to metaphysics. What can identity, even sexual identity, mean in a new theoretical and scientic space where the very notion of identity is challenged?31

A synthesis (a complete synthesis beyond opposition, negation, reconciliation, hybridization, etc.) can yield an experience of temporality that dissolves the very notion of identity itself into something that can be both linear and cyclical. We achieve Nietzsches dream of an armation of values based on the monumental repetitions that occur within the time of history. One could theoretically experience a time beyond binary constitution that does not just sublate the history of these binaries, but renders the entire binary theoretical construction obsolete. At this point, I want to draw together three threads in the above paper. The rst thread is the discussion of time in Kristeva and Kant and the role it can play in the interrelation between a historically experienced empirical, contingent self and an ahistorical and necessary self. The second thread is the deadlock produced by a long history of constitutional theories (exemplied by the series Descartes-Hume-Husserl-SartreLacan-Butler) that rely solely on the privileging of either the ahistorical, transcendent self or the historical empirical self. The nal thread, and the most speculative one, is the non-philosophical methods ability to return to a focus on temporal synthesis that is not reducible to either a historical, contingent account or a transcendent ahistorical account (in short, an account that gives no hallucinatory law to the Real). We will ultimately see how gender constitution is not simply structured by temporal experience, but our very desire for gender dierentiation itself is a result of a dynamic and im31

Kristeva, Womens Time, 33-34.


Speculations III mediate experience of a temporal synthesis that renders all synthesis incomprehensible. I have suggested that Laruelle can assist us in separating completely the empirical and transcendental aspects of theories of subjective constitution in order to avoid having to subordinate and determine one by the other. We saw that Laruelle accomplishes this separation by referring us to the fractal between-two of the photographic identity, now converted in to the fractal between-two of (non-)gender Identity. I now will argue that a particular reading of Freudian psychoanalysis can provide a legitimately non-philosophical method for studying the constitution of the individuals (non-)gender Identity without giving a philosophically understood law to the Real. Let us here turn to one of the most puzzling yet important remarks Freud makes on temporality in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Freud pauses for a moment in section IV, one of the most (in)famous speculations in the psychoanalytic tradition, and writes:
At this point I shall venture to touch for a moment upon a subject which would merit the most exhaustive treatment. As a result of certain psycho-analytic discoveries, we are to-day in a position to embark on a discussion of the Kantian theorem that time and space are necessary forms of thought. We have learnt that unconscious mental processes are in themselves timeless. This means in the rst place that they are not themselves ordered temporally, that time does not change them in any way and that the idea of time cannot be applied to them. These are the negative characteristics which can only be clearly understood if a comparison is made with conscious mental processes. On the other hand, our abstract idea of time seems to be wholly derived from the method of working of the system Pcpt-Cs. and corresponds to a perception on its own part of that method of working. This mode of functioning may perhaps constitute another way of providing a shield against stimuli. I know the remarks must sound very obscure, but I must limit myself to these hints.32
32 Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, The Standard Edition of the Complete works of Sigmund Freud (Hogarth Press: London, 1974) Volume. XVIII, 27.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question Freud is here suggesting that the conscious experience of time as linear (what Kriesteva called cursive or historical time) is in fact a defense against another form of unknown yet always experienced unconscious time. The Kantian inner sense of time as a pure form of immediate a priori intuition is something that must necessarily be guarded against because of its dynamic implications. The battle between the insistent and dynamic inner sense of unconscious time and the PcptCs.s protective linear time represents the original (non-) dialectic in the sense that it is interminable and never fully constitutive. This dialectic can never decide for it is lost in its own fractalization in peaceful fascination.33 Linear time, in the Freudian account, is not the starting point for psychic experience as a whole. It is instead a form of protection and defense against a primary dynamic experience of time as other than linear. This original experience of time is at the same time never surpassed, it is only repressed. This would mean that Kristevas third generation is no longer some future category to be obtained or achieved. It is instead fundamental and generative of the desire to create linear, logical denitions of gendered identity and gendered experience. The fractal nature of temporality as the between-two is both the always present yet never presented source of salvation, re-iteration and radical recreation. The third generation
Linear conscious temporality can be read in this light as similar to Sartres reading of Husserls epoch. For Sartre, the phenomenological reduction that Husserl uses to nd the transcendental ego is no longer a method of bracketing the world in order to gain apodictic certainty; it is instead a therapeutic technique for buering the inherent spontaneity of consciousness itself from itself. The epoch is, no longer a miracle, an intellectual method, an erudite procedure: it is an anxiety which is imposed on us and which we cannot avoid(Sartre, Trancendence of the Ego, 103). The immediate experience of consciousness is literally too much to bear. Personality, created through reective reduction, is a guardian against the radical spontaneity of consciousness and not a necessary, pre-personalized transcendental ego. The ego, for Sartre, is not a uniting operation but instead a buer against the nothingness that allows for the pure spontaneity of consciousness. In my account, the linear construction of narrative gender identity is not a universal necessity but instead a continent response to an original experience of individual constitution as a matter of fractal, unconscious temporality.


Speculations III precedes the rst two necessarily. The third generation does not need to be achieved; it instead needs to be remembered. Recall that, for Kristeva, in the third generations temporal experience the very dichotomy man/woman as an opposition between two rival entities may be understood as belonging to metaphysics What can identity, even sexual identity, mean in a new theoretical and scientic space where the very notion of identity is challenged?34 The unique experience of temporality as fractal is itself enough to dissolve the very notion of identity as it is conceived metaphysically and more importantly, philosophically as well. Now in order to fully grasp how a new experience of collapsed and dynamic unconscious, fractal temporality can explode the idea of gender constitution we must link the third generations temporality to a fractal experience of temporality that lies in the between-two of the empirical-transcendental deadlock. Time itself must be fractalized in order to understand how any innovation in a theory of gender constitution could exit the dogmas it repeatedly inherits in the form of (seemingly) irreducible binaries. Freuds 1915 paper The Unconscious states that:
The processes of the system Ucs. [Unconscious] are timeless; I.e they are not ordered temporally, are not altered by the passage of time; they have no reference to time at all. Reference to time is bound up, once again, with the work of the system Cs. [Consciousness]. [] To sum up: exemption from mutual contradiction, primary processes (mobility of cathexis), timelessness and replacement of external by psychic realitythese are the characteristics which we may expect to nd in processes belonging to the system Ucs.35

Timelessness is a central characteristic of the unconscious and the expression of unconscious processes. Yet, as Derrida notes in Freud and the Scene of Writing,

34 35

Kristeva, Womens Time, 33-34.

Sigmund Freud, The Unconscious, The Standard Edition of the Complete works of Sigmund Freud (Hogarth Press: London, 1974) Volume. XIV, 15.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question

The Timelessness of the unconscious is no doubt determined only in opposition to a common concept of time, a traditional concept, the metaphysical concept: the time of mechanics or the time of consciousness. [] the unconscious is no doubt timeless only from the stand point of a certain vulgar conception of time.36

This vulgar time has been recognized and discussed in the subsequent literature on the time of the unconscious, but it has, for the most part, remained vulgar, but only in the sense that it has remained philosophical. An example of this comes from Adrian Johnstons Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive in which he argues in a philosophical manner for the primacy of temporality in the productive unconscious and the drives themselves. Johnston claims that Temporalityas the irreducible tension between timelessness (the atemporal subjectivity of unconscious enunciation) and time (the phenomenal subjectivity of diachronic utterances)is the gap constitutive of the Kantian-Lacanian subject.37 Temporality, in Johnsons account, remains constituted by an oppositional battle between two irreconcilable contraries: iteration and alteration or the monumental and the linear. The temporality of the Kanitan-Lacanian subject is pregured by the metapsychological condition of the (possible) emergence of all subjects, namely, drive.38 Johnstons analysis here contributes important aspects to the discussion of the temporal nature of the drive, yet he still posits alterable, linear and cursive time in opposition to the monumental, repetitions, iterable timelessness of the noumenal unconscious. Johnston thus once again raises the conict between two irreconcilables to the status of the ideal law of the psyches temporal productivity. Fragmentation and conict remain the law and the limit, and the philosophical decision lives on.
36 Jacques Derrida, Freud and the Scene of Writing, Writing and Dierence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 215. 37 Adrian Johnston, Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive. (Chicago :Northwestern University Press, 2005), 112. 38

Ibid., 119


Speculations III Can the idea of a fractal and not a fractured experience of temporality as the dynamic source of libidinal investment bypass the still clear philosophical threat? If we accept that drive, and by extension the constitution of (non-) gender Identity, and temporality are deeply connected but characterize the time of the unconscious not as timeless but instead as fractal then we can account for both the innite alteration of the expression of gender as well as incorporate the monumental iteration of the ux of the drive itself. The fractal, like the unconscious, like the Real, is radically inexhaustible. It collapses any dierence and repetition, iteration and alteration, cursive and monumental into a single, unied yet inexhaustible surface of creative play and possibility. The productive unconscious is, in this account, not characterized by lack, opposition or fragmentation. It is instead productive and unique each time but capable of an innite power ceaselessly to secrete multiple identities. In Kristevas parlance, yet modied in light of our investigation, the time of the third generation must be akin to an inexhaustible fractal time such as described above. To concisely summarize the dynamic, temporally structured unconscious that I am here proposing as the proper object of the psychoanalytic and scientic study of (non-)gender Identity constitution: 1: Like Kant, the temporality of our unconscious is the synthetic faculty which lies entirely outside of the concepts of the understanding, strictly regulated: time is not the content of thought and the unconscious more generally, it is instead the subtle and dynamic form. 2: Like Kristevas third generation, fractal temporality shows that the very dichotomy man/woman as an opposition between two rival entities belonging to metaphysics; extended in our analysis to the entirety of philosophy and universally amongst the plurality of philosophical decisions on the matter thus dissolving any determinative/ determining relationship between dichotomy and gender identity e.g. male/female, gay/straight, Sadist/masochist etc. 34

Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question 3: Like Johsntons drive theory, the drives themselves are temporally driven and this temporality supplies the drives with both their unity and their innite diversity of vicissitudes. But unlike Johnston, our temporal unconscious is driven not due to an irreconcilable division between the experience of time and the transcendent timelessness of the noumenal unconscious, elevating conict and difference to the status of an ideal law. The drive is instead driven, yet only in-the-last-instance, by the fractal nature (of) unconscious time itself. 4: Like the fractal surface of the identity photo, the fractal temporality of the unconscious is an absolute reection, without mirror, unique each time but capable of an innite power ceaselessly to secrete multiple identities; it is like the fractalized wall that carries no signication; it realizes the synthesis of the most undierentiated void and of the most dierentiated concreteness [...] Neither the empirical and transcendent content, nor the puried void, the purism of the abstract but a synthesis that reconciles opposites without summarily hybridizing them. Yes, a science of (non-)gender Identity constitution is possible. The object of this science would be the fractal between-two experience of temporality understood and analyzed in a rigorous psychoanalytic sense. Finally what new spaces of (non-) philosophical investigation can be opened in light of such an analysis? I have attempted to show that the shift in focus from either immanent or transcendent theories of gender constitution to the fractal experience of irreducible and inexhaustible unconscious temporality can lead us outside of the traditional binary philosophical deadlock and point toward a third way of temporal experience that is always-already upon us and not deferred venir into an aporetic future. By collapsing the temporality of gender onto a at, yet innitely complex fractal surface we can explode the possibilities of gender expression as well as solidify a unitary core from which gendered resistance can proceed. We allow for ceaseless dierentiation without turning either fragmentation 35

Speculations III or opposition into the law by way of a philosophical cut or decision and, in fact, attempt to apply no determinative nal law to the dynamism of the temporal unconscious at all. We continue to study gender as only determined-in-the-lastinstance by the vicissitudes (of) the fractal unconscious while at the same time respecting its inexhaustibility. Part IV Possible Non-Philosophical Objections The Analysis of a Heresy I have argued that psychoanalysis provides a way to pragmatically apply the ndings and principles of non-philosophy concretely to theories of gender constitution. How faithful is this positive account of gender constitution based on a fractal temporality to Laruelles own accounts of the unconscious, temporality and Identity? Why can a psychoanalytic reinterpretation of the Kantian/Freudian notion of time as a constitutive inner sense in light of the ndings of Laruelles non-philosophy provide a better solution for the exiting of the empirico-transcendental philosophical deadlock the question of the subject nds itself in than a more strictly non-philosophical understanding of temporality and psychoanalysis more generally? Where is my heresy and what advantages, if any, does it give my account? In order to address this question I will have to briey pit psychoanalysis against non-philosophy and ask if Freud is in fact making a philosophical decision, enforcing a principle of sucient psychoanalysis, and consequently hallucinating the unconscious as the Real, or more problematically for Laruelle, positing time and temporality itself as the ideal law of the Real. If the unconscious, and more specically the temporal unconscious, is simply another philosophical hallucination then it could never constitute-in-the-last-instance a (non-) gender Identity, rendering a psychoanalytic science of (non-) gender Identity impossible. I simply mean here to show that Freudian psychoanalysis and Laruellean non-philosophy are not contrary but complimentary.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question The rst point of tension between a psychoanalytic account and a more traditionally non-philosophical interpretation of gender Identity revolves around a dierent understanding of the relationship between Identity, the unconscious, repression and time. The Freudian unconscious, strictly understood, does not truly capture the radical (non-philosophical) immanence of Laruelles One. I have argued that an account of (non-)gender Identity constitution must be founded in the study of the way the fractal temporality of the unconscious both constitutes the desire for gender identication as an immediate unity of Identity as well as creates the possibility of productive and creative individual contingencies resulting in the expression of desire and the constitution of the gendered subject. It would seem at rst as if an analysis of this type would depend on the operation of a Freudian notion of repression, memory and time that Laruelle attempts to radically distance himself from.39 For Freud, and the psychoanalytic account I have argued for more generally, there must be some form of interaction between the past, memory and the constitution of sexual identity. The unconscious must in some fashion express itself through the individuals object choices and psychic hallucinations/duplications of the chosen objects in order for sexuality to be constituted.40 This stands in strict
39 Laruelle has more generally attempted to distance non-philosophy from psychoanalysis. He is for the most part eective in this attempt but concentrates on distancing himself from a Lacanian iteration of psychoanalysis. See Laruelle Thorie des Etrangers (Paris: Kim, 1995). For a more extended secondary discussion of Laruelle and Lacan in english see Katerina Kolozova (in The Real and I: On the Limit and the Self (Skopje: Euro-Balkan Press, 2006) chapter 3) and John Mullarky (Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) chapter 4). This focus on Lacan leads Laruelle to overlook certain anities between nonphilosophy and a more Freudian iteration of psychoanalysis. I will briey expand on this at the end of the paper.

See Freuds Three Essays on Sexuality in The Standard Edition of the Complete works of Sigmund Freud (Hogarth Press: London, 1974) Volume VII (1901-1905): A Case of Hysteria, Three Essays on Sexuality and Other Works, 123-246. Object choice, and the experience of libidinal satisfaction by extension, is determined (in-the-last-instance) by the contingent interaction of


Speculations III contrast to Laruelles Past foreclosed to memory and thus seems to stand at odds with non-philosophy, sinking back into a philosophical desire for the Real, unjustly exhausting the un-exhaustible immanence of the One. Laruelle claims that, from a philosophical perspective memory has just been considered as an anthropological faculty or instance, the past and memory in general as functions of a worldly time or even reduced and immanent to consciousness, always philosophizable or sucient.41 A non-philosophical consideration of memory, and symptomatology in general, would have to acknowledge the necessity yet radical insuciency and foreclosure of the past and memory. The Identity could only be determinedin-the-last-instance by the past foreclosed to memory. This critique could be leveled against a form of psychoanalytic understanding centering on the primacy of repression as a mechanism of psychic defense. The One cannot be repressed and thus Identity, in a non-philosophical sense, cannot be captured by the traditional form of the Freudian return of the repressed. Laruelle wants to envision memory as a radically foreclosed, necessary yet also radically insucient past or memory. If non-philosophical past or memory are to be consistent with the non-philosophical project they must respect the radically immanent and foreclosed nature (of) the One. In nonphilosophy The One cannot be forgotten or repressed by occidental memory but hallucinated, giving rise to a special form of symptom.42 The non-philosophical unconscious is similarly foreclosed.

the individual infant unconscious and the contingent material/historical events of its early childhood. (It is at this point where Freud and Marx meet). Psychic reality requires necessarily an external (and ultimately internal [see. Freuds The Project for a Scientic Psychology The Standard Edition of the Complete works of Sigmund Freud (Hogarth Press: London, 1974) Volume I, 281-391]) material reality independent of the individual psyche.

Laruelle, Franois, Future Christ (New York: Continuum, 2011), 75. Ibid., 89.



Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question

Non-psychoanalysis extricates a radical transcendental unconscious from the result of the Real (the One). The unconscious is the syntactic side of jouissance, which is itself, in non-psychoanalysis, a concept on the same level as the Stranger. But, in opposition to the restrained unconscious or the unconscious determined by the signier, logic, or the combinatory, the non-psychoanalytic unconscious has nothing to do with the transcendence of the autonomy of the symbolic: it is the identity of jouissance and a unilateral duality43

This is clearly an attack on Lacans unconscious. The nonphilosophical unconscious, in contrast to the Lacanian unconscious, is characterized by a unilateral casual relation between jouissance, desire, and its expression in the Strangersubject. Here I will speculate that the fractal temporality of the unconscious provides a picture of the necessary yet radically insucient, foreclosed core of gender constitution due to its unity and it radical dierentiation-without-fragmentation or exhaustion. The account I have given runs into even deeper contradiction with Laruelles direct consideration of temporality in The Dictionary of Non-Philosophy: non-philosophy renounces to make of time (or history or even becoming) the essence of the Real, to desubstantialize the latter by the former.44 In order to not turn time or temporality into the idealized and hallucinated law or essence of the Real Laruelle develops a concept of time in line with his concept of memory; radically immanent, foreclosed, necessary yet insucient. For nonphilosophy Time as Given or Past-without-temporalization, as seen-in-One or in time, etc are all:
rst names of time [that] symbolize not a past time but a past which simultaneously possesses a primacy over synchrony and diachrony and determines these transcendent dimensions themselves at least as

Franois Laruelle, The Dictionary of Non-Philosophy (http://speculativeheresy. wordpress.com/2009/03/25/dictionary-of-non-philosophy/), 80. Ibid., 75.



Speculations III
comprising the object of philosophical interpretations. The radical past is uni-versal immanent time, of which one could say that it is-withoutexisting or even that it is a non-temporal time. It is less a question of a memory capable of forgetting and anamnesis than of a past which cannot be forgotten and which, precisely for this reason, is foreclosed to memory which itself, in its suciency, believes to be able to forget and repeat by anamnesis. This One-time, even eectuated as future, remains in its necessary sterility and in no way participates in the present-world such as non-philosophy conceives it and no longerthis is what distinguishes it from the Levinasian Other, and from the tracein the ontological present or the Same.45

For time to be consistent with the One, it must possess a radical primacy to both synchrony and diachrony. I have argued that if the fractal nature of the temporality of the unconscious plays the constitutive role in the constitution of (non-)gender Identity in a way that turns neither empirical contingency, dierence or fracture nor the timeless, universal and static into an ideal law of Identity constitution, hence respecting the an-archic nature of the One. Just as the fractal can never be exhausted, the time of the unconscious determines yet can never in turn be determined or exhausted. Laruelles characterizes the non-psychoanalytic Unconscious in a way that falls in line with the above discussions of Past-without-temporalization and Past foreclosed to memory. As a consequence, the common or vulgar philosophical language of repression, temporality and most importantly unconscious cannot adequately maintain non-philosophical rigor. But, I think we can nd what seems at rst to be a crucial oversight in Laruelles understanding of the Freudian Unconscious. Laruelle claims that:
Psychoanalysis treats under the name of the unconscious not only one of the local proprieties of the psychic apparatusthe product of repression constituted from the representation of things (Freud, Klein)but also the dimension of the imaginary (Jung) or symbolic (Lacan) Other,

Laruelle, The Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, 76.


Benjamin Norris Re-asking the Question

nevertheless generally endowed with a subject that Lacan estimates as being nothing but the Cartesian subject.46

What Laruelle seems to be missing here are some very important comments in Freuds later work on the inexhaustible and un-decidable nature of the unconscious47 and ultimately Freuds nal suggestions that repression may not be the primary form of psychic defense and begins to emphasize the mechanisms of disavowal, rst articulated in his work with fetishism.48 Certain concepts borrowed from psychoanalysis can and should be rigorously re-worked by way of a non-philosophical analysis in order to truly show the expanded potential of both psychoanalysis and non-philosophy in their relation to queer theories and other theories of the constitution of individuality. Here I have argued that the key step in preforming this task
46 47

Laruelle, The Dictionary of Non-Philosophy 79-80.

Everything that is repressed must remain unconscious; but let us state at the very outset that the repressed does not cover everything that is unconscious. The unconscious has the wider compass; the repressed is a part of the unconscious Freud, The Unconscious, 166. The unconscious, contra Laruelles suggestion, is not simply a topographical psychic stores house for repressed contents. There is some thing else there in or (of) the unconscious, but it seems as if the philosophical question of what is x has nearly exhausted itself attempting to exhausted this thing. More importantly, by the end of Freuds thinking, disavowal, as the simultaneous, undecidable registration and repudiation of trauma takes on a more central role in the construction of all psychic defenses (repression included). As Alan Bass puts it let me emphasize Freuds words: whatever the ego does in its eorts of defense... In other words, the disavowal and ego splitting rst elaborated in order to understand fetishism have now become the basis of a changed understanding of psychopathology in general Alan Bass, Dierence and Disavowal: The Trauma of Eros, (California: Stanford University Press, 2000). We must be cautious here, due to the Derridian resonances, in a reading of the importance of disavowal as a mechanism of defense. We must analyze this phenomenon in a non-deconstructive manner. This would involve, from my point of view a re-reading of Derridas reading of Hegel and Antigone in Glas (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990) alongside Laruelles engagement with Derrida in chapter 5 of Philosophies of Dierence. With caution, and more space than I have here, one could expand the implications of disavowal and non-philosophy.



Speculations III involves re-thinking the time(lessness) of the Unconscious as something radically other (but not in the Judeic [still philosophical] sense) than a lack that generates and sustains oppositional, fragmented and ultimately false identities, or as simply a determined stasis, dening individuals once and for all at the outset regardless of empirical and material factors. The non-vulgar time of the unconscious turns out to be a strange form of non-philosophical and fractal time. Productive in-the-last-instance yet never in turn produced, unied yet inexhaustible, unique each time but capable of an innite power ceaselessly to secrete multiple identities yet a wall carries no signication, etc


Thing Called Love

That Old, Substantive, Relation
Beatrice Marovich
Drew University

The Love Object nto what, precisely, do we plummet when we fall into love? What, exactly, is produced when we make it? When we are hungry for love, what stomach is nourished by that strange food? Colloquialisms are littered with a language that objecties love, that turns it into a thingnot just something we can feel, but something we can touch, something that hits us, changes us, throws us, consumes us, drives us. Popular parlance makes the love relation into something almost tangible, concrete, autonomous: love is some thing we fall into, love is a master key, love is a war, love is a bite of heaven, love is a virus. Such language begins to suggest that the love object is not, exactly, the person for whom you pine. Instead, it begins to look as though the love object is the relation, itself. Love takes on thing-like contours, becomes its own sort of creature. It does its own little cosmic dance. Such formulations are, you might say, fundamentally idealist in nature. This is not to say that they are unrealistic, or anti-realistic. Rather, as Iain Hamilton Grant, Jeremy Dunham, and Sean Watson suggestin their history of idealismthis language might be idealist in the sense that it attempts to


Speculations III be realistic about the idea, itself.1 Love, the idea of love, is taken seriously as an entity. This raises the possibility that a love is something real in the worldmore than merely the emotive outcome of a human psychological engagement. A love with such a degree of autonomy, presents itself as mindindependent. This kind of a lovea love that is somehow real in the worldallows us to speculate in strange new directions. Could it have been, for instance, love that was made as the leaf was reaching for the sun? Never mind the obvious absurdities of such a statement. That we tend not to think of love in this particular manner, I realize, should be obvious. I oer it as a thought exercise becausemuch as I recognize that the prospect of such a love object invites skepticismthis idealistic method of investigating love also commends certain practices and approaches. That is to say, an idealistic understanding of love (one that attempts to approach the idea itself realistically, to understand the idea of love as something real in the world) can also understand that this entitylike other creatures who move, act, or growis something fragile and vulnerable. It is something that demands recognition and requires nurture. This is as true for the loves that appear between human individuals as it is for the loves that act as bonds between tiny earthlings and the creaky old planet that birthed them, that sustains them. Love that is real in the world may not be something we can prolong through the cultivation of psychological states. Rather, this sticky bonding relation that connects bodies has certain tissues and bers of its own (tissues that come into contact with, yet are not reduced to, the folds and bers of our human brains and bodies) This love
1 Jeremy Dunham, Iain Hamilton Grant & Sean Watson, Idealism: The History of a Philosophy (Montreal, Kingston & Ithaca: McGill University Press, 2011), 7. They clarify, further, that with regard to ideas, an idealism means having a theory of what they are. In this sense, perhaps, my parallel falls apart. If colloquial language sounds idealist in nature (because it reects the extent to which we take ideas seriously as things in themselves) it probably lacks a theory of what exactly these ideas are. Nonetheless, I do think that such language reects a kind of stubborn underlying realism with respect to the idea of love.


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love needs room to breathe, nourishment, attention, recognition. Such a pronouncement might seem religious, in the Jamesian sense: a drive to make real (and live in accord with) the unseen. Were one asked to categorize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, William James writes, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.2 James intimates that the building blocks of religion3 are abstractions with their own lives. The more concrete objects of most mens [sic] religion, the deities whom they worship, are known only to them in idea.4 And yet, strangely enough in the sincerity of our fervor, these abstractions come to have a denite meaning for our practice. We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were immortal; and we nd then that these words do make a genuine dierence in our moral life.5 He suggests that religion is the sphere of life, in other words, where the reality of the unseenthe actuality of abstractionsis sanctioned, preserved, and protected. In the Christian tradition, of course, love has long been one of those great abstractions. Love, in fact, has been effectively collapsed into the gure of the divine itself: love has been divinized. The biblical assertion that God is love (1 John 4:8) has driven attempts not only to divinize the love relation but more, to assert its independence from human emotions and psychology. If love is, itself, divine (following a rather standard and orthodox line of Christian theologic) it must indeed be mind-independent. It cannot be a human
2 William James, Lecture 3: The Reality of the Unseen in The Varieties of Religious Experience (London & New York: Collier MacMillan Publishers, 1961, 1973), 59.

The building blocks of religion: a phrase that I am playfully cribbing from Ann Taves. See: Ann Taves, Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (Princeton, New Jersey & Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, 2009).
3 4

James, Varieties, 59. Ibid., 60.


Speculations III construct, or a psychological, emotive aftershock. It must be real in the cosmic sense. It must be something with the agential power to bear responsibility, to shape worlds. This may be, perhaps, the very reason that the theologian Augustine of Hippo gave thing-like contours to loveturning it into a substance.6 Such a theoretical move suggestively points to a need for the most abstract of entities to become the most real, the most concrete. Consider this essay a contemplative exercise in relational ontologya speculative excursion. In what follows I endeavor to take the idea of love seriouslyto make the relation real. Given his claim that Anything real can be regarded as an object7 (even, crucially, a relation) I will have cause to explore the extent to which the substantive nature of love that emerges with Augustine can be illuminated or elaborated within Graham Harmans Object Oriented Ontology. I will explore, in other words, whether there isnt something about the love relation that emerges more clearly when we risk a light objectication of its contours. The Love Relation as Divine Substance Christian theologians have traditionally been, of course, extremely cautious to uphold orthodox distinctions between things worldly (creaturely, material) and things divine. This is no less true for Augustine, who declares that God is not only invisible and unchangeable but fully immortal and beyond all human comprehension (available only in ts and starts to our quasi-divine intellectual faculties).8 God is said to be locked fully into the transcendent.
6 I will acknowledge, further along in the essay, the complications inherent in using the phrase thing-like to describe divine substance. Suce it to say, for the time being, that Augustine himself verges in this direction in De Trinitatae. 7 Graham Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing, 2005), 76. 8 Saint Augustine, The Trinity, trans. Stephen McKenna (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963), Book 2.15.


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love Augustines interpretive skills are stretched and challenged, however, when he attempts to account for how the triune God (immortal, immutable, invisible) could also be the Sonthat eshy humanoid gure who walked on earthwithout sacricing his transcendently divine qualities. How, in other words, could the divinity of the eshy incarnation be accounted for? It was important, of course, that Augustine gure out a way to do so, for to claim that Christ incarnate (the Son) was basically just a special sort of creature, or an actual earthling, would have been tantamount to heresy. It would have been improper to let Christs divinity lapse. The negation of Christs full unity with the divine was the Modalist mistake (Sabellianism), which claimed that the triune God was three distinct modes, rather than one unity. The mono-God has to be one, and all the unique facets of this divinity must play the same game of identity. Augustines task in De Trinitatae is to convince his reader that God can indeed be three unique persons, while still remaining (somehow) unitary. The special challenge presented by Christs (clearly not divine) creature carnality is chalked up to habit. First, Augustine argues that creatures are made or produced by the creating divine. Christ, on the other hand, was begotten not made.9 His special creation means that, he is not a creature. He may have walked like a creature and talked like a creature, but in his nature, he is no creature. If he is not a creature, what else could he be but God himself (given that everything which is not God can rightly be considered creaturely)? That is to say, if He is not a creature, then He is of the same substance with the Father, since every substance which is not God is a creature, and that which is not a creature is God.10 This is the important qualication that Augustine will hammer away at, chapter by chapter, in De Trinitatae: the triune God is one unied substance. Within this substance, there are three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). But they
9 Here Augustine makes reference to the Nicene Creed, and the interpretation of 1 John 1.14. 10

Augustine, The Trinity, Book 1.6.


Speculations III all remain relationally connected in the unitary, univocal, divine substance. How does he then explain the Sons apparent creatureliness (when he takes on the form of an earthlinga humanoid)? Augustine determines that the Son has the habit11 of taking on creaturely form (or, as Augustine more frequently phrases it, the form of a slave.) The Latin term habitus is, of course, derived from the verb habere: to have, to hold, to own, to possess. The habitus might also be translated as a condition, an appearance, or a state. The Son, in other words, might have the appearance of a creature, or might reside temporarily within the state of a creature. To speak of a creaturely condition, or a creaturely state, might make a more ready parallel to Pierre Bordieus use of the term habitus: a system of dispositions12 that governs and structures practices, perpetuating the past into the present. But the advantage of the term habit is the easy parallel to the language of a garment: a new nature is put on, like a garment, and taken o. The language of habit, I think, puts the ease and superciality of this transition into sharper relief. We might say that the Son, then, has a penchant for putting on the veil of creaturely materiality. This should be understood merely as a personality trait of the divine personsomething he has the capacity to do, but that does not transform his nature. The Son is equal to God the Father by nature, but less than he by habit.13 The Son, we might say, has his own habits. And it is by virtue of such habits that the mechanism of incarnation is set in motion. Habit is the mediator between God and human.14 It is, then, this habit that brings divine substance into the world in a form that humans can sense
11 The Latin term is habitus, and the translation of this term in to the English habit can certainly be contested as inappropriate. I am exploiting, here, the language used in the 1963 translation by Stephen McKenna. 12

Pierre Bordieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990) 54. Augustine, The Trinity, Book 1.7. Ibid., Book 1.8.




Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love and comprehend. Divine substance canin exceptional circumstancesbecome habituated to a creaturely form. The invisible, eternal, and immutable divine substance becomes comprehensible and sensible as a habit. Christ takes on the habithe wears the veil of the creaturely world. Christ, however, remains substantially divine. His habit may be creaturely, but his substance is divine. Augustine recognizes that the language of substance is tricky, risky. God must be a substance because God is certainly not an accident. Moreover, we can in no way rightly say that anything is known while its substance is unknown.15 We cannot claim to know God, in other words, if we do not know something about the divine substance. So it would seem that the language of substance can be appropriately applied to the divine. Or can it? God is without a doubt a substance, Augustine pronounces, then muses more tentatively, or perhaps essence would be a better term, which the Greeks call ousia.16 Better for what reason? Because an essence is more clearly ethereal? More presciently spiritual? Augustine then begins to confuse himself further over other possible cognates for this slippery term. They indeed also call it hypostasis, he ponders, but I do not know what dierent meaning they wish to give to ousia and hypostasis.17 His confusion over the proper description of this divine substance signals that Augustine may be anxious about the possible consequences of substantializing the deity. What interests me most, however, is that in the end Augustine does not fearat least in brief ashesobjectifying the divine, giving it thing-like contours. What remains important, for Augustine, is that this divine object be wholly uncreaturely. It cannot be a thing in the same manner that a creature is a thing. It is (or should be) another sort of thing, entirely. The divine object, the divine thing, must be invisible, eternal, and immutable. For the nature itself, or the substance, or

Augustine, The Trinity, Book 10.10. Ibid., Book 5.2.

16 17

Ibid., Book 5.8.


Speculations III the essence he writes almost on the verge of confusion, or whatever name the thing itself that God is, whatever it should be called, cannot be seen corporeally.18 I am interested in the fact that, in the end, the divine substance (or whatever its most rightly named) is indeed a kind of thing. There is something thing-like about God. Is this part of what (for Augustine) proves the deitys reality, or actuality? The incarnation, then, is not ultimately a roadblock in Augustines path to discern divine substance. The language of substance becomes, however, even more risky when we begin to speak of high-ranking spiritual creatures such as angels, or the soul. These creatures, hovering around us or lling us up from the inside, might seem (in their very substance) as immutable, eternal, and invisible as the divine itself. They are, similarly, beyond the sensesthey nag at the senses from some other realm. But Augustine works to cleverly distinguish these substances from God. The human soul was, for Augustine, an extremely special cosmic substanceone that occupied a top rung in the hierarchical ladder of creation. The soul, for Augustine, was made in the image of God. The deity created the human out of the dust of the earth (not so special), but gave it a soul of such a kind that because of it he surpassed all living creatures, on earth, in the sea, and in the sky in virtue of reason and intelligence; for no other creature had a mind like that.19 The soul, then, was responsible for bringing the human closer to the angels, closer to God. But Augustine was also careful to distinguish thatwhen it comes to evaluating the human personthe soul of the human should not be considered in isolation from the body. Even if the soul was an awesome spiritual substance, it should not be divorced from the body. This is precisely why he disliked the Platonic doctrine of the soulbecause it made the esh abject, responsible for the evils of the world.20 The emotions (which were acts of the

Augustine, The Trinity, Book 2.18. Emphasis mine.

Saint Augustine, City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003), Book 12.24.
19 20

Ibid., Book 14.5.


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love abstract will) were responsible for the perversions that drove the human to do evil.21 This is also why Augustine contested Origens claim that the soul was housed in the body, as if it were a prison.22 Thus, the body could not be blamed for all perversion. The soul and the body could never be entirely separate. Certainly, in death the soul abandoned the body. So a moment of severance was inevitable. But, in Augustines cosmology, the body and soul were reunited in the afterlife. We would get our actual bodies back (merged with our soul). Interestingly, however, they would be super-bodies, living in a state of superlative health, as words cannot express the immense dierence between what we call health in our present condition and the immortality which is to be ours in the future.23 As human creatures, Augustine considered us a kind of soul/body package. The fact that the soul is eternally related to the body gives some nuance to the claim that, for Augustine, the soul was a creature (and not a shard, or slice, of the creator). But it is important to note that the creatureliness of the soul held, even when the spiritual substance of the soul was contemplated in abstraction from the body. This is, Philip Cary argues, the crucial distinction between Plotinus Neo-Platonism and Augustine. While Augustine agreed with the Plotinian claim that we must look inward to nd the divine, what we nd in the deep recesses of the human interior is not God, properly speaking. God starts to become intelligible when we look inwardthe eye of the soul starts to get a glimpse of the divine. But there is not a collapse of distinction between the soul and God. One can indeed look inside the self to nd what is not self.24 But to confess the souls creatureliness is to repudiate its divinity. The soul, for instance, is a spiritual creature that can suer a mortal death. The soul, Augustine

Augustine, City of God, Book 14.6. Ibid., Book 11.23. Ibid., Book 13.18.

22 23

24 Phillip Cary, Augustines Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 114.


Speculations III claries, is said to die, not because it is changed, or turned into a body or into any other substance, but because[it] is found to be mortal inasmuch as that which it was has ceased to be.25 The nature of the soul in its entirety, its basic substance, does not change. But something is altered in the mode of the soulthe souls modality. Augustine suggests, in City of God that the death of the soul results when God abandons it.26 That which it was (blessed) has ceased to be. The soul dies when its blessedness dies. Discerning divine substance is a messy business. And, realistically, to speak of divine substance is to make reference to an extremely long-lived and complicated series of debates in Christian theology. To contemplate the possible contours of divine substance would extend this essay far beyond the bounds of any reasonable limit. I have not even treated the subject exhaustively, in Augustines own corpus. What I hope to have shown is merely that the thing-like contours of God, for Augustine, were thing-like in a way that does not seem concrete. Even the soula spiritual substance whose creaturely form is so abstract that its commonly thought not to exist at allis alleged to be thing-like in a more concrete sense than the deity. When it comes to the matter of divine substance, we have seen Augustine wrangling with Christs creature carnality, searching for a way to determinately distinguish it from divine substance. We have seen him struggling with the strange substance of spiritual creaturesattempting to ensure that their insensible invisibility is not mistaken for some variant of divine substance. But it is love, I think, that presents Augustine with the most dicult challenge of all. For Augustine must give credence to the biblical injunction that God is love (he points, especially, to 1 John 4:8), while also recognizing the fact that there is nothing quite so creaturely, quite so carnal, quite so worldly and earth-bound as love itself. To charge that love is thing-like, but only thing-like in a divine way, was to set for himself a dicult metaphysical challenge.

Augustine, The Trinity, Book 2.9. Augustine, City of God, Book 13.2.



Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love What does Augustine talk about, when he talks about love? This, even for Augustine, is a perplexing question. For, when he loves love, he must love God. Yet what can it mean to love love, to love a relation? Passages in Augustines work seem to reect his own bewilderment over what it would mean to turn a relation into something metaphysically actual. But what is it that I love in loving you? he asks his god.27 He loves a certain manner of thing. But he cannot, quite, discern what that thing might be. It is not manna and honey, not the limbs embraced in physical love that he loves, when he loves love. And yet neither is this thing that he loves, when he loves love, entirely without some sensual thingness itself. I love a certain kind of light and sound and fragrance and food and embrace in loving my god.28 Augustine stresses that love is certainly not nothing, it is not made of nothingness. It must, in some sense, be a thing that exists. If love is nothing, how can it be said God is love? If it is not a substance, how is God a substance?29 Augustine is careful to note that whatever this God stu is, it must be more spirit than body.30 Yet Augustine recognizes how odd it seems to call love a thingnamely, because it seems impossible to love love. That is to say, one cannot fall in love with love. For I do not love love, except I love a lover, for there is no love where nothing is loved.31 To repeat: Augustine discovers, I think, the strangeness of making a relation into something metaphysically actual. Love must be something (because it cannot be nothing). Love must be a substance (according to the metaphysical rules hes set out for himself). Love must have some sort of thingness about it. And, yet, given that love is a relation, neither can he deny that this thingness is ever truly isolated, solitary, or wholly independent. Whatever thingness the love relation
27 Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Albert C. Outler & Mark Vessey (New York: Barnes and Noble Classics), Book 10.5.7. 28

Ibid., Book 10.6.8. Ibid., 6.5.

29 30 31

Ibid., 9.2.



Speculations III has is tenuous and fragiledependent, for its existence, on what it relates. Divine substance is not creaturely. And yet, it does take on a strange creaturely cast, glare, or contour: it begins to look (and perhaps smell) sensual, it begins to look dependent. Much as Augustine seeks to uphold the orthodox, rigid, distinction between the creaturely and the creatorly, the eshy, dependent nature of the love relation seems to rope him into confounding these boundaries. It is necessary, here, to navigate through a resulting bifurcation that occurs in Augustines development of love. Eric Gregory argues that, for Augustine, love like cholesterol, can be healthy or deadly.32 He is making reference, of course, to Augustines description of love as either cupiditas (desire) or caritas (charity, true love, good love). By this logic, it would seem, love is either good or bad: immanent, eshy (and of this world), or heavenly, disembodied, and transcendent. This would split love into two variants, or strains. Thomas Carlson, for example, points to the extraworldly tendency of love in Augustine and his heirs.33 To speak of a love of the world was, says Carlson, to speak of our human way of being with others.34 Augustine, by this analysis, validates a love that is out of this world. For this reason, Carlson calls for a way of thinking love that reconnects the polarities, to think love within the world, by making it a condition of the world.35 Hannah Arendt explored this distinction between caritas and cupiditas at great length in her doctoral dissertation, Love and Saint Augustine. As Arendt reads Augustine, there is a gap between lover and loved that begs to be lled. When I use the term gap, I will be making reference to her analysis. But I think it claries something useful. Lover and loved need a connector. Cupiditas, she says, lls the gap between creatures
32 Eric Gregory, Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 35. 33 Thomas A. Carlson, Indiscrete Image: Innitude and the Creation of the Human (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 214. 34 35

Ibid., 215.

Ibid., 215.


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love while caritas lls the gap between creature and creator.36 What I would especially like to underscore in Arendts analysis is that both caritas and cupiditas are distinguished by their objects, but they are not dierent kinds of emotion.37 In other words, they belong to the same phenomenon. They are, in the last instance, the same thing. Love as caritas, Arendt claries, is a kind of ceaseless craving passion that turns whatever it craves into something to either ravish or consume. The object of craving can only be a thing I can possess and enjoy, and it is therefore quite characteristic that in this context Augustine can even speak of God as an object of enjoyment.38 Arendt thus underscores the importance, for Augustine, that when we (as human creatures) love, we must be careful to cast our love in the proper direction. We must be wary of where we cast our love. Cupiditas is a love of things in this world, its a love of carnality and in carnality. Caritas aims outside of the world. It is directed toward the eternal God. One who loves the world via caritas will lter their love for the world through this caritas and will be able to love the world properly. What I think we can get from this analysis is simply the complexity of this thing called love. Arendt claims that love is one form of emotion that is complicated in its directionality. This is, of course, an atheistic readingone that reads love as purely emotive, rather than (in some sense) divine. For Augustine, I suggest, love is a form of divine substance that can be complicated in its directionalitypulled and tugged in various directions. I would stress that it is important to recognize the ambivalence inherent in Augustines understanding of love, without understanding Augustines love as something that is bifurcated all the way downsomething that is eternally split between spheres (the temporal and the eternal). There are not kinds, variants, or strains of love. There
Hannah Arendt, Love and Saint Augustine, Edited by Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott and Judith Chelius Stark (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 30.
36 37

Ibid., 18. Ibid., 16.



Speculations III are distinct deployments of love, ways of directing it. It seems more accurate to me to say that love, for Augustine, is love. It is one thing. Thus, by this reading, to say that the God (who is one) is love (which is one) is to make a one-to-one correlation. The variations that create the illusion of dierent kinds of love are simply incremental distinctions in intensity. I am arguing that Augustine sees love deployed along a spectrum, or a continuum. Perhaps it is helpful, then, to imagine caritas and cupiditas as distinct points on a parabolic line of love. Edward Morgan argues that caritas and cupiditas are at intersecting but opposing points in an Augustinian ethical spectrum.39 Morgan argues that the two are involved in a transformative dialogue40 that happens through languagevia the word. His claim, in other words, is that Augustines caritas is re-formed by engagement with scriptures prescriptive norm of caritas.41 The medium of the text serves as the point of intersection. The text is what consolidates and reveals the continuity between cupiditas and caritasthe continuity that binds them within the more singular force of love. In their recent collaborative commentary on Augustines Confessions Virginia Burrus, Mark Jordan, and Karmen MacKendrick also allude to the transformations that occur, for Augustine, through the medium of text. The beauty of the text, they suggest, allows Augustine to slip between esh and words, words not always even about the esh, though always, in sublime disregard of his own anti-rhetorical stance, words with a potent sensory appeal. The text is a point of intersection between esh and abstraction. They claim that although the Confessions seemsthough, in real ways, it isa text startlingly without a body, especially without a divine body there is still a sense in which, it is also a text in which every word is drawn toward the body.42 Bodies burst into the text, and the
39 Edward Morgan, Incarnation of the Word: The Theology of Language of Augustine of Hippo (New York & London: T&T Clark International, 2010), 73. 40 41

Ibid., 74.

Ibid., 75. Virginia Burrus, Mark D. Jordan, and Karmen Mackendrick, Seducing



Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love text injects itself into bodies. We might see such slippage in, for example, Augustines description of Gods busty incarnations. Speaking of the breast milk that nourished him as a child, Augustine writes, neither my mother nor my nurses lled their own breasts but you, through them.43 God does not have a body, yet is present in the most intimate recesses of bodies. God may not have a distinct body, but does not leave bodies behind. There is, in the Confessions, a mutual seduction of bodies and words.44 Augustine may claim to turn away from the esh (from the world), when he turns toward God. But his own texts reveal the mutual transformation, the dialogue, between caritas and cupiditas. If scriptures are able to serve (as Morgan suggests) as a corrective to transform cupiditas, bodies (and images of bodies) also attach themselves to words and bring caritas back into the world, into the esh. The text is the medium that reveals that caritas and cupiditas are not bifurcated into dierent kinds of love, but remain bound. As Augustine reports (textually) in his Confessions, he is seduced by his God, he burns for his Goddivine love oers the most superlative erotic prospects. As MacKendrick has elsewhere argued, Only God holdsor, as I suspect isthe promise of burning that hot.45 The text reveals the entanglements of caritas and cupiditas. In this sense, there is a complex crossing of signals between caritas and cupiditas as dierent signals light up, on the spectrum of love. If love moves back and forth, intensely and anxiously, between cupiditas and caritas on the parabola of love, does this mean that cupiditas is merely the side of the love spectrum most detached from the divine pinnacle of love? Would
Augustine: Bodies, Desires, Confesions (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), 125.

Augustine, Confessions, Book 1.6.7. Burrus, Jordan, and Mackendrick, Seducing Augustine, 125.

44 45

Karmen MacKendrick, Carthage Didnt Burn Hot Enough: Saint Augustines Divine Seduction, in Towards a Theology of Eros: Transguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline, ed. Virginia Burrs and Catherine Keller (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 217.


Speculations III cupiditas be a point on the end of the line, while the deity is located on the equidistant opposing point? It is not toward cupiditas, I submit, that we need to look if we seek the antithesis of love but, instead, to the love of nothing. That is to say, there is an end of the linewhen it comes to love. Love (as God) may live eternally. But there is still a point when love becomes something elsewhen it undergoes a change of identity, when it stops being love. This happens when love loves nothingwhen love is nullied. In Book Two of the Confessions, Augustine gives a rather dramatic account of his youthful folly: the theft of some pears from a neighbors tree. This narrative is a paradigmatic reection on his sense of sin. In the end, it is not the act of stealing that appears most abhorrent to Augustine. Rather, what is most vile is that it revealed the nature and direction of his love: the nihilism of his love.46 Given that there was no good, none at all, in the simple act of theft, Augustine claims that, the theft itself was nothing.47 Given that the act lacked any ontological good, it was evil (for Augustine, an ontological nothingness that is the antithesis of the profundity of creation). When he loved the theft, he was in love with nothing. He confesses that he had no love, whatsoever, for the pears that he stole. He took no pleasure at all in their juicy, eshy, pear bodies. This was, in the end, a shame as it revealed to him that, I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.48 What this intimates, it seems, is that the love might have been less vile had it been mediated by something else. The theft might have been slightly less vile, had the love of the theft been interrupted or complicated by the love for a juicy, eshy pear body. Here, in this situation where Augustine loves nothingby loving the sin of theft itselfit is the lack of mediation that I

I have been aided in my analysis of this passage by: Kim Paenroth, Bad Habits and Bad Company: Education and Evil in the Confessions, in Augustine and Liberal Education, ed. Kim Paenroth and Kevin L. Hughes (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2008), 5. Augustine, Confessions, Book 2.8.16. Ibid., Book 2.3.8.




Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love would like to highlight as central. As Arendt has articulated: the conundrum of love is that it exists to ll a gap between lover and loved. This is what makes love a trinity, by Augustines account. There are, therefore, three: the lover, the beloved, and the love.49 It is the Trinitarian nature of love that allows him to draw an easy, and suggestive, parallel between love and God. When we love, we participate in a trinity. The substance of love can be like the divine substance because both are Trinitarian. What this means is that love exists, as a third. The death of love is when this thirdthis mediating elementis left out of the equation, or collapses. If the love of a thing in itself (in the very worst case, perhaps, a sin) is not interrupted or complicated by a mediating element, love is nullied. As James Wetzel puts it, sin is a void, it is the lack in love,50 what becomes the lack of love. What the love of nothing lacks, says Wetzel, is measure. God is the beloved beyond measure.51 In a love of nothing there is nothing to ll the gap between lover and loved. Nothingness is what lls the gap between lover and lovedrather than a love relation. To steal a pear in order to love the juicy, eshy pear body wouldnt have been a holy act. But it would have mediated, or complicated, the love of theft with the love OF something good. For Augustine, the holiest sort of creature-to-creature connection is to love creaturely things with a love of God as the measure between themto love things in God, to love microcosmic creatures within the macrocosm of God-love. This serves as a mediator, or complicator, in connections. We might imagine this holiest form of love as the vertex in the parabola of love, where the point of caritas crosses with that of cupiditas. Love is a relation that binds. But, as the sort of relation I have been illuminating here, love is always and already a love
49 50

Augustine, The Trinity, Book 9.2.

James Wetzel, Snares of Truth: Augustine on Free Will and Predestination, in Augustine and His Critics, ed. Robert Dodaro and George Lawless (London & new York: Routledge, 2000, 2005), 132.

Wetzel, Augustine and His Critics, 135.


Speculations III OF. That is to say (for example), when two humans love one another, the love that binds them is a relation. But this relation is not a simple knot between them, or a blob, or a plug. Rather, it is its own life and dynamic. The love that connects is, itself, already related (in a cosmic sense). In other words, love is something like a macrocosmic relationa framework. To be in love is to be microscopically connected within the macrocosm of a connection: to be points on the parabolic line of love. The love of God becomes a framework for microcosmic loves between creatures. To love within the umbrage of this macrocosmic framework is what, Im suggesting, it means to love in God. At the other extreme, the love of nothing is also a macrocosmic framework. But the love of nothing cuts love o from itself. Love is nullied as its isolated from its connectivity. This is the negation of love, a putting-to-death of love, or nullication of love. Therefore, to love in the umbrage of this love of nothing is actually to pop or squash the fragile life of the relational connection. Connection is pursued without the mediator. We might imagine this, for example, as the quest to traverse a ravine without constructing a bridge, or nding a footpath. This might require, simply, convincing oneself that the ravine does not exist, which would be nothing more than a delusion. Loves Ontological Dilemma: Object or Relation? In the end, I am less interested in Augustines metaphysics of love for its potential holiness. The function that it serves for me, here, is as a relational ontology that doggedly seeks to give reality, actuality, to the abstract gure of a relation. A relational ontology, like that of Bruno Latour, would deny Augustines claim that a divine thinglike loveis a substance. Latour insists that the divinities (who he deems concrete and actual enough to dub creatures52) are not substances. Instead, they
52 This is, of course, resonant with Alfred North Whiteheads process ontology where he follows up on William James decoupling of the divine and the absolute (that emerges in his tirade against the British Hegelians in A Pluralistic Universe). God, says Whitehead, is the primordial creature


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love are all action.53 Divinities are not substances but events that he calls modus operandi.54 This is, in fact, why he insists on calling them divinities rather than godsbecause the gods, it is said, save through their very presence, they claim a kind of presence that only an ontology of substance might give them. In his own analysis, however, Latour fails to give a seat in existence to the divinity Ive been discussing: this divine relation, this divine thing called love. Im simply suggesting that its agency and actuality is not suciently accounted for. Latour underscores the fact that love, in some crucial way, explains the function of religionthe way it works. Love, and specically what he calls love talk (language exchanged between lovers) illustrates the critical distinction that Latour draws between religion and science. Both religion and science, he argues (echoing the passage from William James, cited earlier), are regimes of invisibility. Neither of them (contrary, perhaps, to established belief) are much interested in the visible world. But the assumption, Latour argues, that religion is primarily preoccupied with the transcendent, the distantthat which is most far awayis erroneous. Instead, he suggests, the long mediated chains of science are what lead toward the distant and the absent while religion is actually preoccupied with the representation of the close and the present.55 Science seeks to get into the furthest reaches of the universe, while religion is concerned with bringing it close. Love talk, as he sees it, is exemplary of this process, this religious bringing-close-and-present. The words that lovers use are, in themselves, rather banal. There is nothing much thrilling in the confession: I love you. What is signicant about it, says Latour, is the transformation it generates in
who is transcended by the creativity which it qualies. See: Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York: The Free Press, 1978), 31, 88.
53 Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 50. 54 55

Ibid., 50.

Ibid., 113.


Speculations III the listener, as well as the speaker. Love talk possesses an incredible agencythe power to bring bodies close, the power to intimate. The power of religion, of religious talk, is not dissimilar. Religion aims at jumping, dancing toward the present and the close: to redirect attention away from indifference and habituation, to prepare oneself to be seized again by this presence that breaks the usual, habituated passage of time.56 Religion is about transforming the spaces between us and around us. Religion works to bring something (the divinities?) close and present. What is interesting to note, however, is the role that Latour suggests love plays in religion. Love, in this discussion, is not a relation with any particular pride of place. Love is not a site where anything religiously signicant is happening. Love talk exemplies a form of transmission, a mode of relation. But this transmission, itself, is not concrete. Love talk is like a sign, or an icon, of the transmission that occurs. But the love, itself, is not a thing. Nor is love religiously meaningful (as anything more than an analogue). Latour avoids what he calls freezeframing the love relation. Freeze-framing, he writes, takes an image (let us say, in this instance, the image of a love) and interrupts the movement of the image by isolating it out of its ows of renewed images, in order to believe it has a meaning by itself.57 Both religion and science, he states, are constituted by a owing character. And so he interprets the cardinal sin as nothing else but freeze-framing. Idolatary is not about the making of images, but the freeze-framing of them. God did not ask us not to make images (what else do we have to produce objectivity, to generate piety?) but he told us not to freeze-frame, that is, not to isolate an image out of the ows that only produce them with their realtheir constantly re-realized, re-represented meaning.58 It may be, perhaps, that even a light objectication of lovesuch as that we witnessed in Augustineis at risk of freeze-framing.
56 57

Latour, On the Modern Cult, 122.

Ibid., 121. Ibid., 123.



Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love Yet there is something about the quality, or character, of love that both popular sentiment, as well as Augustines metaphysical confessions, capture. Love talk points to a kind of transformation that happens across a gap (between lovers). But when a love becomes real (when two actors have fallen into the real thing in this gap between them) something happens in the world, something is born, something is made. There exists, between the lovers, an actual bond, a tie. The world itself readjusts to accommodate its presence. I would argue that this calls for a light objectication of the love relationa sort of gentle freeze-framing, a willingness to see it as some real thing, with a presence: a real creature, an enduring thing, who calls out for recognition. The metaphysical conict between objects and relations has been explored at great length by Object Oriented Ontologist Graham Harman. Making the interesting move to read Latour (the Actor-Network theorist) as a metaphysician, Harman believes that Latour is object oriented in some senses, but not in others. While Latour does, indeed, account for the agency of non-human actors (such as, for example, divinities) the point of greatest dierence between Latour and Object Oriented Ontology appears to be that Latour risks reducing real objects to the sum total of their relationsreal objects are subsumed in his relationalism. Rather than fall error to Whiteheads fallacy of misplaced concreteness59 Harman seems to suggest that Latour commits another sort of fallacyof misplaced indeterminateness, perhaps. For Latour, Harman emphasizes, a thing is nothing more than its sum total of perturbations of other entities. There is no mysterious residue in the things hiding behind their relations with other things.60 This is what Harman calls the weakest form of relationalismneither a lump universe that sees the entire cosmos as one connected relation, or a correlationism.
59 This fallacy consists in neglecting the degree of abstraction involved when an actual entity is considered merely so far as it exemplies certain categories of thought. See: Whitehead, Process and Reality, 7. 60 Graham Harman, Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (Melbourne: re.press, 2009), 158.


Speculations III Latours relationalism is, more, a kind of theory of internal relations.61 Harman, on the other hand, has sought to underscore what he believes is a kind of non-relational actuality somewhere at the heart of things, their ability to be actual without being registered by other things, or at least without being registered fully by them.62 His sense is that reducing all objects to nothing more than their relations does an injustice to the object in question.63 There is a sense in which the actuality of a thing is exhausted by its connections. You are your connections, and nothing more: any entity is nothing other than a point in a network. This has given rise to Harmans somewhat polemical positionthat the object is always more than its relations. The object is a real thing apart from all foreign relations with the world, and apart from all domestic relations with its own pieces.64 This holds not only for objects that we can touch (a rock, a hammer) but for relations as well. Relations, in other words, are themselves objects that are independent of (and more than) their own relations. Once a relation emerges into existence, it takes on the properties of what Harman calls an object. This may risk sounding nonsensical, but the emphasis falls on the fact that relations illustrate characteristics of an object and maintain a kind of non-relational core. What is important to note, however, is that Harman wants to soften the sharp distinction between objects and relations (rather than deny the reality of relations). He argues that, no simple distinction can be made between relational and nonrelational entities, since every entity is both of these.65 Relations as objects (which I will simply refer to as relational objects) play the cosmic role of acting as the very carpentry

Harman, Prince of Networks, 187. Ibid. Ibid., 188. Ibid., 186.

62 63

64 65

Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing, 2002), 284.


Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love of things, the joints and glue that hold the world together.66 Relations are the objects that are created when two other objects come into contact. When two objects come into genuine relation, even if they do not permanently fuse together, they generate a reality that has all of the features we require of an object.67 This gives rise to what sounds like a rather hallucinogenic (and, perhaps, harmonious) interchange of objects and relationswhat Harman calls the wheel of substance and relation. Substances are lled with relations; relations become substances. The wheel of substance and relation throws everything in the cosmos sometimes into one of these roles, sometimes into the other. More, an object always plays both roles simultaneously, and it is only our reection on them that places it more emphatically in one light or another.68 It is only our ontological framework, in other words, that stops the wheel of substance and relation from spinning. Up to this point, the object-oriented frame seems to provide a hospitable environment for the reality of a substantive relation like love. More intriguing parallels develop, however, when we ponder the connections between Augustines substantive love relation and Harmans theory of vicarious causation. The claim that all objects (even relations) withdraw into an autonomous and non-related core presents us with an ontological situation in which, relations never directly encounter the autonomous reality of their components.69 Objects hide from one another endlessly, and inict their mutual blows only through some vicar or intermediary.70 This leads to the necessity of a mediator. This happens through the process of vicarious causation where entities inuence one another only by meeting on the interior of a third, where they exist side-by-side until something happens that allows them to
66 67

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 20.

Ibid., 85. Ibid.

68 69

Graham Harman, On Vicarious Causation, Collapse, Vol II: Speculative Realism, Edited by Robin Mackay (March 2007): 171-205, 189.

Ibid., 190.


Speculations III interact.71 The relation, as a third object, is born out of a kind of causal necessity: two objects are driven to connect, and so a relation is born. The site where the connections occur is not between the two objects deep non-relational core, but along their sensual plane. Something must happen on the sensual plane to allow them to make contact.72 The sensual plane of objects gives birth to the relational object. The vicarious causation that gives rise to a new relational object unfolds into a rather Trinitarian dynamic: one object can only touch another object by the creation of a third. In this sense, it resembles Augustines substantive love relation: the gap between lovers is lled by the mediating relational substance of divine love. Even Harmans choice of language is interestingly relevant for the example at hand: the love object is created through the sensual point of contact between objects (by sensual objects). We might think, then, of the love object as read out of Augustines metaphysics (which is also, coincidentally, God) as a third object that is borne from the gap between the lover objects. This also allows for an interesting explanation of how it is that love (which is a relation) can happen in God, as Augustine declares it to. Love can occur within an entity, because the entity is (itself) a relation. The ability to consider love more objectively opens new possibilities for (perhaps heretically) unpacking this orthodox claim. All of this (the ability to contemplate love as both object and relation, the theory of vicarious causation that explains the birth of the new, thing-like, relation) would suggest that OOO oers a theoretical environment where the reality of love can be discerned at its most robust. And yet I am skeptical that, in the last instance, an object-oriented framework can accurately discern the reality of lovethat substantive relation. The reason, I submit, is that Harman halts the wheel of substance and relationforcing relations into the ontological position of objects. What this means is that, because entities are always objects, they are each sealed away in a vacuum devoid of all

Harman, On Vicarious Causation, 190. Ibid., 197.



Beatrice Marovich Thing Called Love relation. These vacuums are noncommunicating vacuous zones, ontological bubbles, none of them able to transmit energy or inuence to the others.73 Harman has described this withdrawal as the single basic tenet of an object-oriented philosophy.74 The issue of withdrawal has been a subject of hot debate, on the blogosphere, between process-relational and object-oriented thinkers. I make, here, no claim about the possibility of withdrawal as a localized phenomenon. I merely question its universalizability. What I mean to suggest is, merely, that withdrawal would nullify the reality (the very existence) of the substantive relation that I have illuminated in the preceding pages. To force the substantive relation into a purely objective status would be to take an anti-realist ontological approach to its actuality. For Augustine, the substantive love relation hovers in a paradoxical and anxious tension between object and relation. Indeed, I think its appropriate to understand it as caught up within the wheel of substance and relation. But if the substantive relation that is love were to be located (at its most real) within a state of withdrawal, this would make the love relation something noncommunicating, cut o, existent within its own private vacuum. In Harmans ontology, it would seem entirely possible for a relation like love to exist, in its full reality, as a Platonically unconnected form. Particular loves would then be sensual instantiations of this great form. But for the substantive relation of love that I have explored, to be shut into a private vacuum (where it is disconnected and nonrelational) would essentially put an end to the love relation. It would be, in essence, a love of nothing. This was for Augustine, as we have seen, the end of love, the nullication of love. Love is born into existence (and remains real) to the extent that it is a love of somethingin the best case (by Augustines account) of the deity. The substance and essence of love is that it is a relation: a love of. When it is cut o from its relational status and loves nothing, the love relation col73

Harman, Tool Being, 295. Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 20.



Speculations III lapses and leaves nothing between lovers. It is in its love of something that a love relation becomes substantive enough to ll the gap between lovers. This is, perhaps, the result of considering the love relation within a metaphysical frame that is purely objective. Harman suggests that ontology should be dened as a description of the basic structural features whereas metaphysics treats fundamental traits.75 To say that a given entity (like love) bears the structural features of an object does not preclude us from looking at those structural features from another angle (that of a relation). But to claim that the fundamental traits of an entity reveal the metaphysics of an object does seem to push its relational features aside. What I nd compelling about Augustines account is that he tenuously irts with the notion that love (i.e. God) is an object, thing-like, actual. But he does not over-commit to this solidity. He allows love (because it also a relation) to remain just a bit more indeterminate, a bit more mysterious. I do not read this as a sign of analytical weakness. Rather, I see the suggestive contours of a more supple metaphysic.


Harman, On Vicarious Causation, 204.


The Other Face of God

Lacan, Theological Structure, and the Accursed Remainder
Levi R. Bryant
Collin College

I. Religion as a Social Structure eading the work of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, one gets the impression that questions of religion and theology revolve around whether or not these beliefs are accurate representations of the world.1 However, as Levi-Strauss shows in The Savage Mind, the dierence between mythological thought and scientic thought is not to be understood in terms of whether it is an accurate representation of the world, but rather both are variations of a common structural order. As Levi-Strauss understands it, both myth and scientic thought are characterized by identical mental operations, but are merely applied to dierent materials.2 While not wishing to
1 Cf. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (New York: Houghton Miin Company, 2006); Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, (New York: Penguin Books: 2006); Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, (New York: Twelve Books: Hachette Book Group, 2007). 2 If our interpretation is correct, we are led toward a completely dierent viewnamely, that the kind of logic in mythical thought is as rigorous as that of modern science, and that the dierence lies, not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of things to which it is applied. This is well in agreement with the situation known to prevail in the eld


Speculations III follow Levi-Strauss all the way in arguing that structures are ahistorical invariants of the human mind, in this paper I do wish to arguedrawing heavily on Lacanian psychoanalytic theorythat religion is a particular structure of thought and human social formations. From this I will draw some structural or systemic consequences that follow from this structural organization. In particular, I wish to identify some structural features characteristic of a particular type of religious thought and social organization pertaining to monotheism in terms of the subjects precarious relationship to language, masculine sexuation, and the role that objet a plays in our economy of desire. I will argue that these features are not accidental byproducts of unique historical conditions, but rather properties of a particular structural organization. While these structures might themselves be products of particular socio-historical conditions, these features will be seen to be part and parcel of these particular forms of structural organization, such that where these structural organizations are present, these features will be present as well in much the same way that the hypotenuse of a right-triangle is a ratio of its relation to the other two sides. At the outset, it is important to note that it is extremely dicult to make generalizations about religion. As any theologian or philosopher of religion will tell you, religion is a polythetic concept, having characteristics of what Wittgenstein referred to as a set of family resemblances without an overarching essence. While we may anachronistically refer to the beliefs of the Aztec and the beliefs of the Christian as religions, we would be hard-put to nd a common essence characteristic of both. In the course of this essay, I will be referring to collective formations that posit the transcendence
of technology: What makes a steel ax superior to a stone ax is not that the rst one is better made than the second. They are equally well made, but steel is quite dierent from stone. In the same way we may be able to show that the same logical processes operate in myth as in science, and that man has always been thinking equally well; but the improvement lies not in an alleged progress of mans mind, but in the discovery of new areas to which it may apply its unchanged and unchanging powers. Claude Lvi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 230.


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God of the One. Moreover, following Russell McCutcheon, I here propose to treat these religious structures not as private, rst person experiences, but rather as social formations.3 This thesis necessarily follows from any Lacanian approach to religion, for as Lacan argues in Seminar 10, Anxiety, the subject is constituted in the locus of the Other. He constitutes himself from his mark in relationship to the signier.4 If this is indeed the caseand I wont rehearse the arguments herethen there can be no question of a private subject, or a subject characterized by immediate interiority and independence from the social eld. If my thesis that religion is a structure of particular collective formations rather than a body of ontological claims and private experiences is correct, then it follows that certain social formations can be characterized as religious, regardless of whether they are secular or what we more commonly refer to as the religious. That is, questions of whether there is explanation of phenomena through the supernatural will be secondary to the nature of these structures, such that a strictly secular system could nonetheless exemplify these characteristics. As Manfred Frank puts it,
Structure [is] in the rst place only insofar as it is a nite context of assignments and references among a nite number of oppositive values. What can be changed in a structure are, at the most, the contentual and signicational attributions, not the order of values itself.5
3 Russell T. McCutcheon, Critics Not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion, (New York: suny, 2001).

Jacques Lacan, Seminar 10: LAngoisse, 1962 - 1963 trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished seminar, Seminar of 28 November 1962. Lacan develops his account of subject formation in terms of alienation and separation between seminars 9 and 14. Unfortunately I will be unable to develop this account here, but for excellent discussions of the Lacanian subject cf. Mladen Dolar, The Cogito as Subject of the Unconscious in Slavoj Zizek ed., Cogito and the Unconscious, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 11-40; Paul Verhaeghe, Causation and Destitution of a Pre-Ontological Non-entity: On the Lacanian Subject, in Dany Nobus ed., Key Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, (New York: Other Press, 1998), 164-189; and Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
4 5 Manfred Frank, What is Neostructuralism?, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 65.


Speculations III The terms that might ll a particular position in a structure might changebeing supernatural in one instance and secular in anotherbut the value of the relations remains the same. But prior to this we need to pass through the discussion of a number of issues, ranging from linguistics to set theory, that will initially seem far removed from questions of religion and theology. This will provide the resources for discerning how this theological structure is a response to the problem of the Real. What I wish to understand is why there is a predominance of violence among social formations organized around the primacy of the One. The joke of this paper will be that this is the result of a set-theoretical paradox. II. The Problem of Language During the nal phase of his work extending from roughly 1964 to the end of his life, Lacan came to focus increasingly on the role of the Real in the triad composing the Symbolic, Imaginary, and Real. This entailed understanding the formations of the unconsciousroughly symptomsas attempts to recreate a harmony with the Real. As Lacan puts it,
Whenever we speak of causethere is always something anti-conceptual, something indenite. The phases of the moon are the cause of tideswe know this from experience, we know that the word cause is correctly used here. Or again, miasmas are the cause of feverthat doesnt mean anything either, there is a hole, and something that oscillates in the interval. In short, there is a cause only in something that doesnt work. Well! It is at this point that I am trying to make you see by approximation that the Freudian unconscious is situated at that point, where, between cause and that which it aects, there is always something wrong. The important thing is not that the unconscious determines neurosisof that one Freud can quite happily, like Pontius Pilot, wash his handsFor what the unconscious does is show us the gap through which neurosis recreates a harmony with a reala real that may well not be determined.6
6 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998), 22.


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God Importantly, Levi-Strauss makes an analogous claim in Structural Anthropology: since the purpose of myth is to provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction (an impossible achievement if, as it happens, the contradiction is real), a theoretically innite number of slates will be generated, each one slightly dierent from the others.7 In short, it is a gap or Real in the social system or symbolic order that will generate mythic productions, just as it is a gap or Real in the unconscious that will generate symptoms, slips of the tongue, jokes, bungled actions, acts of forgetting, dreams, etc. The product of this attempt to re-create a harmony between the symbolic and the real is, of course, the symptom. A symptom can be anything from the dramatic compulsion to repeatedly wash ones hands to a simple slip of the tongue or a dream. What is important is that the symptom is a response to a gap, lack, or absence which is characterized as Real. Lacan gives two key formulations in characterizing the specic dierence of the Real: on the one hand, Lacan claims that the Real is that which always returns to its place. In the middle Lacan, something qualies as Real if it has this quality of always returning to its place. Here, then, we might think of the movement of the planets. We can see how this characterization of the Real evolves over the course of his thought insofar as the symptom comes to increasingly be conceived as that which always returns to its place in the psychic economy of the subject. The symptom might occur in a variety of manifestationsa phobia of a weasel might turn into a phobia of planesbut these various manifestations will share a structural identity. In fact, we might even think of that nal moment of analysis, which involves identication with the symptom, as consisting in the eternal return of the symptom. While it is certainly true that the movement of the symptom produces an endless variety of symptomatic formations, the lack or absence around which these formations occur is always the same. A good deal of analysis thus consists in the mapping of this lack in its sheer nonsensical

Lvi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, 229.


Speculations III being (the movement from symptoms imbued with meaning to the sinthome as pure process without meaning). Part of traversing the fantasy consists in coming to stand before this fundamental void borne of castration covered over by fantasy. On the other hand, Lacan characterizes the Real as the impossible. It is with this formulation of the Real that we truly enter Lacans mature thought. Here the claim that the Real is the impossible should not be equated with idiotic common sense platitudes to the eect that pigs will never y or pigs and donkeys cannot mate. As Lacan argues, impossibility is not to be understood as related to possibility, but necessity. Moreover, we ought not understand impossibility as being dened in terms of what people or a given culture believes is possible or impossible. Rather, the sort of impossibility Lacan has in mind are formal impossibilities like the sort that arise in logic or mathematics. Most often these formal impossibilities have to do with sets that do not include themselves, like the set of all sets that do not include themselves. Such entities generate irresolvable paradoxes. Thus there is a special relationship between paradox and impossibility as it pertains to the Lacanian Real. The Real is not realitythe latter, Lacan claims, is only ever approached through the frame of fantasy8but rather is an impasse of formalization.9 This impasse of formalization or the Real, Lacan will argue, does not cease writing itself;10 which is to say, it does not cease producing symptoms in an attempt to recreate a harmony between the symbolic and the real. The graphs of sexuation,
8 To the right is the scant reality on which the pleasure principle is based, which is such that everything we are allowed to approach by way of reality remains rooted in fantasy. Jacques Lacan, Seminar 20: Encore, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), p. 94-95. 9 This is where the real distinguishes itself. The real can only be inscribed on the basis of an impasse of formalization (Ibid., 93).

The necessarywhat I propose to accentuate for you with this modeis that which doesnt stop what?being writtenWhat doesnt stop being written is a modal category, and its not the one you might have expected to be opposed to the necessary, which would have been the contingent. Can you imagine? The necessary is linked to the impossible, and this doesnt stop not being written is the articulation whereof (Ibid., 59).


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God along with the stances of hysteria (am I a man or a woman?) and obsession (am I alive or am I dead?) can be seen as variations on these set theoretical paradoxes.11 Thus, for instance, the problem with the set of all sets that do not include themselves is that if the set of all sets that do not include themselves includes itself, then it simultaneously must belong to itself and exclude itself. If it belongs to itself then it has violated the property dening membership to itself: Namely, it is no longer the set of all sets are not members of themselves. Likewise, if it is not a member of itself, then there is at least one signier that does not belong to the set of all sets that are not members of themselves, thereby undermining the totality of this set. The set of all sets that are not members of themselves is consequently a paradoxical notion. The symbolic thus generates impasses of formalizations, these impasses express formal impossibilities, and these formal impossibilities are what characterize the Real. Moreover these impossibilities are intriguing in that they always return to their place. They always occur in the same place and thus mark a certain invariance in the symbolic which otherwise does not exist. Although I cannot develop this claim in detail here, Lacan will dene three formal impasses that fundamental fantasy strives to surmount: the non-existence of the sexual relation, questions of our origin as subjects, and the non-existence of Woman.12 Now, having briey unfolded Lacans conception of the Real, it is worth noting that his conception of the signier perfectly exemplies Russells paradox or the paradox of the set of all sets that do not include themselves. Lacan gives his most striking formulation of this feature of the signier in Seminar 14, The Logic of Fantasy, when he remarks that, it is of the nature of each and every signier not to be able in any
11 Cf. Jacques Lacan, Seminar III: The Psychoses, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993), 178 - 179.

On the primary questions underlying fundamental fantasy, cf. Paul Verhaeghe, Does the Woman Exist? From Freuds Hysteric to Lacans Feminine, (New York: Other Press, 1999), 159 - 177.


Speculations III case to signify itself.13 To say that a signier cannot signify itself is to say that no signier is a member of itself. Rather, as Lacans discourse of the master illustrates, the signier must always refer to another signier. Lacan immediately follows this up with reference to how this generates Russells paradox or the paradox of the set of all sets that are not members of themselves.
It is too late for me to impose on you, in a hurry, the writing of this inaugural point for the whole of set theory, which implies that this theory can only function starting from an axiom described as specication. Namely, that the only interest in making a set function is when there exists another set which can be dened by the denition of certain xs in the rst as freely satisfying a certain proposition. Freely means: independently of any quantication: small number or all. The result of thisis that by positing any set whatsoever, by dening in it the proposition that I indicated as specifying xs in it, as being simply that x is not a member of itselfthat which, as regards what interests us, namely, for the following, which is necessarily once one wishes to introduce the myth of a reduced language: that there is a language which is not one, namely, which constitutes, for example the totality of signiers. What is proper to the totality of signiers, I will show it to you in detail, involves the following as necessaryif we simply admit that the signier cannot signify itselfinvolves the following as necessary: that there is something that does not belong to this set. It is not possible to reduce language, simply because of the fact that language cannot constitute a closed set; in other words: that there is no Universe of discourse.14

The consequences of this simple observation are profound. It will be recalled that at the outset I pointed out that the subject is constituted in the eld of the Other or the eld of language. Lacan develops his account of subject formation in seminars 10-14 in his account of alienation and separation.
13 Jacques Lacan, Seminar 14: The Logic of Fantasy, 1966 - 1967, trans. Cormac Gallagher, unpublished seminar, Seminar of 16 November 1966. 14



Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God On the one hand, this will entail that the subject can never nd a signier for itself within the symbolic order that would adequately name it or x its identity. Why? Simply because another signier will always be required to engender the sense of any signier. As Manfred Frank puts it speaking in the context of the Derridean notion of play,
We are already familiar with the other object Derrida puts forward against the idea of a principle or a closure of structure. It is of a systematic nature and maintains that even the signication of a structural principlein the semantic sense of the word signicationcannot escape the law of determination by means of opposition and thus can constitute itself only within the referential play of signiers of structure. As a result, one has to give up the idea that the blueprint of structure, its transcendental principle, commandeers structure and keeps it in order from outside. One has to concede, on the contrary, that we are, as Derrida says, entangled in structures and have no possibility of getting beyond our Being-inside-structures.15

Although Frank is here referring to Derridas critique of Lvi-Strausss thesis of unchanging synchronic structures functioning as an infrastructure for the various myths we nd about us, these claims equally characterize Lacans understanding of the signier. When Frank here refers to determination, he is referring to the necessity of distinction in terms of what something is not for something to become determinate. As Hegel quotes Spinoza as saying, omnis determinatio est negatio. Lacan had begun developing these claims in 1961, in Seminar IX: Identication, nearly ten years before Derrida published Speech and Phenomena or Writing and Difference. Indeed, in Seminar 9, given between 1961-1962, one will even nd a sophisticated discussion of writing and the trace. Questions of precedence aside, the upshot of this thesis is that the subject, insofar as it is constituted in the eld of the Other, will experience its identity as precarious as it will be unable to x on one signier to ground or support that

Frank, What is Neostructuralism?, 61-62.


Speculations III identity. One more will always be needed. In certain respects, this is the hysterical core of neurotic subjectivity. The hysteric is perpetually asking the Other what am I?, tell me who I am?, but never nds a satisfactory answer. However, matters are far worse than identities rendered precarious by virtue of every signier requiring determination by another signier; for if it is the case that the signier is an example of a set characterized by not belonging to itself, then it follows that there cannot be a set of all signiers or a totality of signiers. As Lacan so forcefully puts it, there is no Universe of discourse. This point will be expressed throughout Lacans teaching in a variety of ways: Lacan will express it in the aphorism that the Other does not exist, i.e., that it does not form a closed and consistent totality. Likewise, Lacan will claim that there is no Other of the Other. The upshot of this, as we will see, is that not only is the subject, like Joseph K. in Kafkas Trial and Castle, unable to discover a stable name or identity for itself, it also discovers that there is no support for its very being. It is precisely here, I will argue, that the site of religion emerges. III. Masculine Sexuation and Onto-Theology As we have seen, there are thus two inter-related poles between which language is problematic. On the one hand, at the pole of the subject, there is no stable signier that would anchor or x the subjects identity. On the other hand, at the pole of the symbolic or the Other, language is unable to form a xed or closed totality without falling into an impasse of formalization. As Lacan puts it, the Other does not exist, which is to say, it does not form a closed totality. In a closely related vein, Lacan will also claim that there is no Other of the Other, or signier standing outside this play of the signier (S1), securing a foundation and stability for the endless sliding of the signiers (S2). As Lacan puts it in Subversion of the Subject,
Let us begin with the conception of the Other as the locus of the signier. No authoritative statement has any other guarantee here than


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God

its very enunciation, since it would be pointless for the statement to seek it in another signier, which could in no way appear outside that locus. I formulate this by saying that there is no metalanguage that can be spoken, or, more aphoristically, that there is no Other of the Other. And when the Legislator (he who claims to lay down the Law) comes forward to make up for this, he does so as an imposter.16

To say that there is no Other of the Other is to say that there is no signier that would complete the set of all signiers, establishing a totality and system of all possible relations, thereby guaranteeing speech. It is precisely this that Lacan illustrates in the discourse of the master: Discourse of the Master Impossibility S // a Impotence S1 S2

In the upper left-hand portion of the discourse we have the master-signier (S1), while to the left we have the battery of signiers (S2). The master-signier here functions as an Other of the Other, totalizing and completing that battery in a nite and consistent whole. In terms of the passage we just saw from Subversion of the Subject, this would be the so-called Legislator laying down the law. However, we note that in the position of the product we nd the objet a. Despite this attempted totalization, a remainder is produced that fails to be integrated in the symbolic totality. The mastersignier proposes itself as outside the play of the signier and therefore capable of forming a totality, yet it inevitably fails in this vocation. Why? Because no signier, including the master-signier, can signify itself. As Derrida so nicely puts it,

Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English trans. Bruce Fink, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 688.


Speculations III
The concept of centered structure is in fact the concept of a play based on a fundamental ground, a play constituted on the basis of a fundamental immobility and a reassuring certitude, which itself is beyond the reach of play. And on the basis of this certitude, anxiety can be master, for anxiety is invariably the result of a certain mode of being implicated in the game, of being caught by the game, of being as it were at stake in the game from the outsetThis is why one perhaps could say that the movement of any archaeology, like that of any eschatology, is an accomplice of this reduction of the structurality of structure and always attempts to conceive of structure on the basis of a full presence which is beyond play.17

Derrida is here extremely close to Lacan. The upshot of the dierential nature of the signier is that any attempt to totalize the system of signiers necessarily fails, leaving behind a remainder, that cannot be integrated in the system. It is for this reason that the barred subject (S) appears in the position of truth in this discourse, or as that which is unconscious or which must be excluded while animating the discourse. On the one hand, this discourse perpetually strives to surmount its division or lack produced in and through language (S), presenting itself in the semblance of completeness and totality (S1). On the other hand, this discourse perpetually nds this gap or division returning in the form of the loss or remainder (a) produced by this discourse when the master-signier intervenes in the battery of signiers (S2). For this reason, the upper level of the discourse is characterized by impossibility insofar as the master-signier is never sucient to produce the totality it aims at; while the lower level of the discourse is characterized by impotence insofar as the divided subject (S) is forever separated from the lost object or remainder (a) thereby failing to attain completeness. Consequently, this discourse endlessly repeats in an innite variety of ways, forever striving to recoup what it loses through language. This point, the function of the remainder, will become extremely important in a moment.
17 Jacques Derrida, Writing and Dierence, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 279.


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God Having outlined the impasse of formalization characteristic of language, I would now like to situate theological structure in terms of the masculine side of Lacans graphs of sexuation. For Lacan, the graphs of sexuation do not refer to biological sex, nor do they refer to socially constructed gender. It is important to note that subjects that are biologically female can occupy a masculine structure of sexuation, just as subjects that are biologically male can be sexuated female. Rather than being an issue of biology, the structures of sexuation are two ways in which subjects relate to this impasse of formalization or the Real. As iek puts it, for Lacan,
sex, sexual positions, [are] not something simply discursively constructed. But for all that, Lacan, of course, does not return to a nave position of sex as something substantially pre-discursively given. Sex is not a symbolic discursive construction. What is it? It emerges precisely where symbolization fails. Thats Lacans point. That, in other words, we are sexed beings precisely because symbolization necessarily fails. And sexuality means two versions of this failure.18

My thesis is that mono-theistic structure can be comprehended in terms of the masculine side of the graph of sexuation. As a reminder, I understand mono-theistic structure to be any social formation organized around the primacy of the One or the master-signier as a technology for totalizing language. From this mapping, we should be able to draw attention to some salient features of this type of formation. The issue of sexuation is not about biological sex, but about the sort of jouissance one is able to obtain.19 Lacans concept of jouissance is highly polysemous, and can refer to a variety of dierent types of jouissancephallic jouissance, surplusjouissance, Other-jouissancebut the term cannot strictly be translated as pleasure. Where pleasure is produced through a decrease in tension, according to Freud, jouissance can be thought as an increase in tension that is often experienced

Slavoj iek, Interrogating the Real, (London: Continuum Books, 2005), 81.

Bruce Fink, Lacan to the Letter: Reading Ecrits Closely, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 158.


Speculations III as painful. Translating the term as enjoyment can thus be misleading, as the term is also sometimes used to refer to any sort of aect, such as anxiety, sadness, depression, joy, etc. Lacan presents his graph of sexuation as a formalization of two formal impasses or deadlocks in the subjects attempt to attain jouissance. The upper and lower levels of the top portion of the graphs of sexuation are to be read together such that the upper level indicates a structure of fantasy and the lower level indicates how the subject relates to jouissance. The lower portion of the graph of sexuation represents the manner in which the subject strives to surmount this real or formal impasse. The left-hand portion of the graph represents the masculine structure of sexuation, while the right-hand side represents the feminine structure of sexuation.

xx xx

xx xx



The upper portion of the masculine side of the graph of sexuation can be read as there is a form of jouissance that is not subject to castration.20 Castration, here, should be taken to refer to submission to the symbolic order. In Freuds myth of the primal father in Totem and Taboo, the primal father exemplies

Fink, Lacan to the Letter, 160.


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God this proposition as he has no limits to his sexual enjoyment. That is, not only can the primal father enjoy all women in the tribe, he can enjoy his own mother and daughters as well. There are no limitations to his enjoyment. Whenever we say that God is omnipotent we are also saying that God exemplies this proposition, as omnipotence implies no restriction to power and enjoyment. Similarly, some think of the extremely wealthy, rock stars, or porn stars as exemplifying this state. Roughly, whenever we imagine that theres someone who is completely satised, without any impediments or limitations, were in the domain of the rst line. The lower line of the masculine side of the graph of sexuation can be read as saying All of a mans jouissance is phallic jouissance. Every single one of his satisfactions may come up short.21 The idea here is that all jouissance is mediated in the symbolic such that it is experienced as coming up short or lacking in some way. This is a consequence, once again, of the principle that the signier cannot signify itself. Because the signier is dierential, no term will be immediate or complete, but will rather always embody absence or a reference to other signiers. Every time I get a bit of recognition, every time I get a new honor, every time I get an article or a book published, every time I get a new car, buy a new book, etc., I experience this satisfaction as less than expected or as coming up short. The jouissance I actually obtain is less than the jouissance I expected. As Fink writes,
There is no barrier between my desire for something as formulated or articulated in signiers (S) and what can satisfy me. Thus the satisfaction I take in realizing my desire is always disappointing. This satisfaction, subject to the bar between the signier and the signied, fails to fulll meit always leaves something more to be desired. That is phallic jouissance. Just as one cannot take the lack out of Lacan, one cannot take the failure out of the phallus.22

Fink, Lacan to the Letter, 160. Ibid.



Speculations III Finks point here evokes Hegels old joke about how you cannot buy fruit. Theres no such thing as fruit, only oranges, apples, grapes, etc. Fruit is a signier that cannot be had. The abstractness of the signierif thats an adequate way of putting itis always in conict with the concreteness of jouissance, such that each bit of jouissance we obtain is experienced as not being it. More fundamentally, I experience myself as limited or lacking, as constitutively incomplete. This structural disappointment in the masculine side of the graph of sexuation is represented by the arrow running from the barred subject (S) to objet a, where the subject is perpetually pursuing this elusive remainder without being able to catch it. It is notworthy that this is simply another schematization of Lacans discourse of the master, where we saw that the totalization of the symbolic eld always leaves a remainder. Now here is the key point: The upper level and lower level of the masculine graph of sexuation must be read together to signify a particular deadlock or antinomy within the masculine way of relating to jouissance. Let the upper portion of the graph be a specically masculine fantasy of complete or total jouissance. It is because a man believes either that a) total jouissance is possible through some action or object or social position, or b) that some other person or being has total jouissance, that he comes to nd all the jouissance that is available in his day to day life insucient. Take the following passage from Descartes third meditation as an exemplication of this structure:
[I]should[not]think that I do not perceive the innite by means of a true idea, but only through a negation of the nite, just as I perceive rest and darkness by means of a negation of motion and light. On the contrary, I clearly understand that there is more reality in an innite substance than there is in a nite one. Thus the perception of the innite is somehow prior in me to the perception of the nite, that is, my perception of God is prior to my perception of myself. For how would I understand that I doubt and that I desire, that is, that I lack something that I am not wholly perfect, unless there were some


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God

idea in me of a more perfect being, by comparison with which I might recognize my defects?23

Descartes is here arguing that we cannot arrive at the idea of the innite or perfect simply by negating the nite. Indeed, his whole point is that my very ability to see myself and entities in the world as imperfect and lacking is because I already have the idea of perfection. But since this idea of perfection is a necessary condition for seeing things as imperfect, I could not have learned this idea from experience. Therefore, says Descartes, only a perfect being could have put this idea in me. Descartes point, then, is that the idea of God, of an uncastrated being, is the very condition of my desire insofar as I desire to move from a less perfect to a more perfect state. This passage exemplies the structure of masculine sexuality perfectly. On the upper portion of the graph we have God, while on the lower portion of the graph we have the subject that desires to know. In between, there is always a remainder that falls away. Lacan, of course, will argue that this structure results not from God, but from our alienation in the signier. III. Theology and Dirt What consequences follow from this elaboration of the theological structure of masculine sexuation? What does it allow us to discern? In order to draw these consequences, we must focus on the role that objet a plays in these structures. Philosophically it is dicult to know how to situate Nietzsches proclamation that God is dead. It would be a mistake to suggest that this is an ontological thesis or a philosophical argument against the existence of God, for Nietzsche does not demonstrate to us, as an atheist might, that there is no God. Rather, Nietzsche claims that a fundamental mutation or shift has occurred in how we understand the world and
23 Ren Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy trans. Cress, (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, 1998), 76.


Speculations III the nature of being. That is, Nietzsche gives us a version of the failure of symbolic eciency. I will not here enter into a long discussion of Nietzsches narrative as to how we came to kill God. This is not a joyous proclamationthough it may have joyous consequencesbut a lament. As Lacan argues, traversing the phantasy lies not so much in coming to see how we are castrated, ssured, or non-identical, but rather coming to see how the big Other through which we organized our desire and identity does not itself exist. That is, the very co-ordinates of our world, desire, and identity collapse when we come to discern the non-existence of the big Other. This comes out most clearly in Descartes third meditation, where we are shown how God is not simply the guarantor of the truth of clear and distinct ideas, but of our very being or existence. In this precise Lacanian sense, then, both atheist and theist can still think prior to the death of God, insofar as both rely on a guarantee of truth. What strikes me as crucial to Nietzsches declaration of the death of God, is the accompanying claim that we have wiped away the horizon, that we now move without direction, that we are suspended in an innite void and cold, empty space. All of this returns us to the set theoretical paradoxes surrounding the nature of the signier. The death of God seems to signify a world that has lost its coordinates and that the ground has disappeared beneath us. I take it that the term God is a generic term for any sort of transcendental signier (the upper portion of the masculine graph of sexuation) that would x meaning and identity. It would be a mistake to assume that God simply refers to the God of monotheistic religion. Rather, God is a generic term referring to a particular operator, to anything on the order of a form, essence, transcendence, identity, substance, permanence, ideal, wholeness, totality, and so on. Similar sentiments could be expressed, for instance, following the collapse of a nation or empire, where the name of the nation or empire serves this God-operation for its subjects. While the death of God is not an ontological claim, it does present an ontological opening or challenge. This logic is 86

Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God deeply attached to that of identity and generates a particular sort of antagonism. In De Ordine, Augustine writes that,
The soul therefore, holding fast to this order, and now devoted to philosophy, at rst introspects itself; andas soon as that mode of learning has persuaded it that reason either is the soul itself or belong to it, and that there is in reason nothing more excellent or dominant than numbers, or that reason is nothing else than numbersoliloquizes thus: By some kind of inner and hidden activity of mine, I am able to analyze and synthesize the things that ought to be learned; and this faculty of mine is called reason.Therefore, both in analyzing and in synthesizing, it is oneness that I see, it is oneness that I love. But when I analyze, I seek a homogenous unit; and when I synthesize, I look for an integral unit. In the former case, the foreign elements are avoided; in the latter, proper elements are conjoined to form something united and perfect. In order that a stone be a stone, all its parts and its entire nature have been consolidated into one. What about a tree? Is it not true that it would not be a tree if it were not one? What about the members and entrails of any animate being, or any of its component parts? Of a certainty, if they undergo a severance of unity, it will no longer be an animal. And what else do friends strive for, but to be one? And the more they are one, so much the more they are friends. A population forms a city, and dissension is full of danger for it: to dissentwhat is that, but to think diversely? An army is made up of many soldiers. And is not any multitude so much the less easily defeated in proportion as it is the more closely united? In fact, the joining is itself called a coin, a co-union, as it were. What about every kind of love? Does it not wish to become one with what it is loving? And if it reaches its object, does it not become one with it? Carnal pleasure aords ardent delight for no other reason than because the bodies of lovers are brought into union. Why is sorrow distressful? Because it tries to rend what used to be one.24

A central onto-theological assumption is not so much that of Godthe God-function, as Descartes argues, is only a guarantor of truth and order, which cannot be guaranteed by our
Albert Hofstadter and Richard Kuhns, eds., Philosophies of Art & Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 182-183.


Speculations III senses or appearances alonebut rather the assumption of the One. Whether the One be substance remaining identical throughout change such as Descartes wax, or the one of the transcendent form immune to the distortions of images, appearances, and sophists, or whether it be the one of personal identity, the nation, our kind of people, or a subject that is the same despite all its ever changing thoughts, or the one of a holistic universe where everything is interconnected and harmonious, or the one of a State, the one is always the avatar of theological thought. As such, the death of God signies rst and most fundamentally the end of the primacy of the One in whatever form it might take. To announce the death of the God is, as both Deleuze and Badiou have declared, to simultaneously declare that the One, the identical, the same, is only a product, a result, a term-become rather than a foundation or rst. Philosophically those ontologies premised on identity or the One as their rst principle produce irresolvable set-theoretical problems. Ethically and politically such philosophies are premised on the predominance of the Imaginary, the yearning for totality, completeness and wholeness, as can be seen in Augustines example of the army and the city, where dissension and the stranger are seen as threats. The problem is that such organizations are inherently conictual. As Plotinus, another thinker of the One will write when describing beauty and purity,
If a man has been immersed in lth or daubed with mud, his native comeliness disappears and all that is seen is the foul stu besmearing him: his ugly condition is due to the alien matter that has encrusted him, and if he is to win back his grace it must be his business to scour and purify himself and make himself what he was.25

In the same passage, Plotinus draws comparisons to the besmeared man covered in mud, and the stained soul, impure gold, and the way in which the One, the Good, and the Beautiful

Hofstadter and Kuhns, Philosophies of Art & Beauty, 146.


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God are contaminated by matter itself. In the case of both Plotinus and Augustine, there seems to be a close correlation between the primacy of the One and contamination which threatens the One. Every desire for the Onewhether in the form of identity, collective unity, the holism of the universe, etc.is always accompanied by this foul stu that besmears it or the alien matter that must be eradicated or defended against. IV. The One and the Extimacy of Contamination However, while we here see a close correlation between assertions of the One and concern about the foreign, what we have not yet established is that this dialectic is internal to identity and the One itself. That is, it could yet be that there is the One and something comes from the outside, contaminating the One from without. The immigrant, as it were, invades our land. What needs to be shown is that this contamination is always already internal to the One itself. Put otherwise, it must be shown that the contamination of the One is not something that comes from the outside, sullying what would otherwise be a pure identity, but rather that organizations premised on the supremacy of the One must, by virtue of their own necessity, produce an outside that simultaneously marks and veils the impossibility of the One. The is, the signier subtracted from the chain of dierentiality must be veiled in its truth that it too is diacritical or dierential, while simultaneously marking the place of its failure or the remainder that it produces. It is precisely this that Lacans account of masculine sexuation, the Real, and the discourse of the master allows us to thematize. Language is always constitutively incomplete. This is not simply a contingent accident such that we could nally rectify it by adding one more (encore!) signier, but is an essential feature of any system or the mark of systematicity as such. From a psychoanalytic perspective, this logic is seen most clearly in Totem and Taboo and Group Psychology and the Analysis of Ego. The consistency of the social system is only made through the subtraction or addition of a particular element, a supplementthat is always provisional in its support 89

Speculations III at bestsuch that this element has the paradoxical status of simultaneously being a part of the system and outside the system. It is this supplementary signier that I have referred to as the God-function. Thus, when Lacan claims that there is no metalanguage, he is essentially claiming that there is no point of view one can adopt on language that would allow one to survey the whole from the outside. If there is no metalanguage, then this is by virtue of the fact that language is, as we have seen, diacritical such that every element of language takes on its identity by virtue of its dierence to the other elements. Insofar as each element only takes on its identity with respect to the other elements, no element is ever simply present, but each element is always already dispersed or contaminated by the other elements. Thus we encounter the formal impossibility, impasse, or Real characterizing the impossibility of ever arriving at simple identity with oneself. As many post-structuralist thinkers have observed, identity is always already contaminated by dierence by virtue of the diacritical play of language. This is just another way of saying S1/S in the discourse of the master. iek gives a terric example of this principle in his magnum opus, For They Know Not What They Do. As iek remarks in the context of a discussion of Hegels distinction between boundary and limit,
National identication is an exemplary case of how an external border is reected into an internal limit. Of course, the rst step towards the identity of the nation is dened through dierences from other nations, via an external border: if I identify myself as an Englishman, I distinguish myself from the French, Germans, Scots, Irish, and so on. However, in the next stage, the question is raised of who among the English are the real English, the paradigm of Englishness; who are the Englishmen who correspond in full to the notion of EnglishHowever, the nal answer is of course that nobody is full English, that every empirical Englishman contains something non-EnglishEnglishness thus becomes an internal limit, an unattainable point which prevents empirical Englishmen from achieving full identity-with-themselves.26

Slavoj iek, For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor,


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God National identity here corresponds to the master-signier (S1) in the discourse of the master or the upper portion of the masculine graph of sexuation. The diacritical nature of identity is the lower portion of the masculine graph of sexuation or our inability to embody Englishness. ieks point is that insofar as a nation is dened by a boundary, its identity can only be established in its dierence from other nations. We can readily observe this phenomenon at work in personal identity as well; for as Lacan shows in the second cell of the graph of desire, my identity is only arrived at dierentially in relation to others. What we have here is thus the real of identity or the way in which identity, properly speaking, is impossible. Neither a nation nor a person is able to ever arrive at identity with itself insofar as it is dierentially structured with respect to other nations and identities. Thus when iek claims that social antagonisms are always structured around an impossible Real, one way of understanding him would be to point to this formal impossibility of achieving identity. This impossible Real is not without consequences; for as a traumatic impossibility it turns the accomplishment of identity into an insistent demand. Despite the fact that identity is formally impossible insofar as it is always-already contaminated by dierence, identity or respite from the play of diacritics is nonetheless demanded. Just as the Real of castration produces desire in the subject, the Real of impossible identity produces a sort of collective desire or fantasy. Identity must be accomplished even if impossible. Or rather, we might say, it does not cease to write itself. In this respect, identity is not established through a totalization of the system in question, but is instead produced by having some contingent entity stand for the totality of entities, allowing a totality to provisionally produce itself. For instance, some particular type of Englishmanperhaps the working mancomes to stand for all Englishmen. This addition to the system is simultaneously a part of the system
(London: Verso Books, 1991), 110.


Speculations III and outside it, and functions in such a way as to grant the system a semblance of identity with itself. It is notable that the unconscious functions in exactly this way. The function of the symptom is in fact that crazy addition that allows the otherwise untotalizable unconscious to hang together as a consistent whole. The symptom is always a +1 that stands in the place of the absence lying at the center of the unconscious structured like a language. It is therefore a S(A) or a signier of the barred Other. Yet in functioning in this manner it simultaneously reveals and conceals the fact that the Other is barred. In this respect, the symptom recreates a harmony with what would otherwise be innite deferral. This is why the symptom can also be understood as a metaphor. By contrast, the operation of addition by which an untotalizable system takes on the semblance of totality is itself subject to the diacritical movement which eaces identity and is therefore in danger of collapsing. For this reason, the addition of one element is never enough. In addition to this +1 there must be a -1 which accounts for the failure of totalization in advance. It is here that the logic of contamination emerges in connection to those fantasies of collective wholeness. For, as we saw in the case of Plotinus and Augustine, in every semblance of totality there is always a contamination or cries of a virus corrupting the identity of the system. This contaminant is the remainder or objet a. This contamination is a strict corollary of the crazy identity established through the addition of that one extra signier, and functions to account for the failure of this master-signier or the manner in which the signier is itself eaced by the diacritical play of dierence. Just as Lacan, in Seminar 22, says that there is no subject without a symptom, it could be said that there is no social organization without a symptom. The symptom here marks the failure of the social symptom while simultaneously treating it as something external to the system that could be overcome. The subtracted signier or contaminant is always the immigrant, the ethnic other, women, liberals, the indel, the terrorist, etc. However, the point not to be missed is that this 92

Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God subtracted term is not these entities themselves, in their substantial being, but a refracted view of the system itself as it strives to repress its own impossibility. As iek sometimes says, the Jew targeted by the Anti-Semite has nothing to do with real Jews, but is itself a symptom of the German social system under national socialism. It is for this reason that those discourses most characterized by the call for identity and the primacy of the One (nationalistic discourses, individualistic discourses premised on the ego, certain religious discourses, etc) are always most characterized by discussions of their Others or those supposed invaders contaminating the identity of the discourse. In fact, what the discourse encounters in these Others is its own disguised Real or the manner in which it is always already diers from itself. In short, these Others are the objets a that the identity has had to sacrice in order to constitute itself in the semblance of a complete totality. For that which is repressed always returns. The question then is whether it is possible to conceive a metaphysic, ethic, and form of social organization not premised on the primacy of the OneA society, as it were, of the Real. V. Epilogue An amusing thing happened in the pre-publication stages of this article. One of the outside reviewers critiqued the article on the grounds that it seemed unfamiliar with the work of Levi Bryant and, in particular, the work of Bryant on sexuation and onticology27 (my term for my variant of materialist object-oriented ontology). This is quite right. The Other Face of God was written in 2007 on the occasion of the Psychoanalysis and Belief Symposium hosted by the English and Rhetoric department at University of Texas at Arlington. At this point I had not yet made my realist turn, nor did I yet know anything about object-oriented ontology or speculative realism. At any rate, I can scarcely imagine a more delightful
27 For a discussion of my current views on Lacanian sexuation cf. Levi R. Bryant, The Democracy of Objects, (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2012), chapter 6, section 1.


Speculations III example of withdrawal and the manner in which objects are even withdrawn from themselves. Nonetheless, if I saw t to attempt to publish this article despite its dated nature, then this is because the meditations on sexuation and theology I develop here are at the heart of the ethico-politico project of my onticology. These meditations would later become the groundwork of my at ontology and critique of ontotheology in The Democracy of Objects. Drawn from the work of Manuel DeLanda, at ontology is the thesis that all beings equally exist, even where they do not exist equally. While at ontology recognizes that entities exist at dierent levels of scale ranging from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy, it refuses that gesture that would treat any of these entities as more ontologically real than others. For example, at ontology recognizes that institutions cannot exist without people, but simultaneously argues that institutions are real entities in their own right with unique powers that cannot be reduced to the parts upon which the institution depends. However, at ontology above all rejects the existence of sovereign entities that condition all other entities without themselves being conditioned. Examples of sovereign entities in the philosophical tradition would be the God of theistic traditions, the Kantian and certain forms of the phenomenological subject, Platonic forms, and so on. In each of these cases, one entity conditions and organizes all of the other entities without itself being signicantly conditioned by these entities. For example, Leibniz will argue that God selects each and every entity to exist thus and so in his creation of the universe. In the case of Kants transcendental subject, while it is true that it is aected by the world apart from it in intuitions, the categories of the understanding and the forms of intuition nonetheless condition and structure all these elements given in sensibility. In the case of vertical ontologies, there is an entity that conditions, legislates, and organizes everything else without itself being conditioned. As in the case of Platos Demiurge in the Timeaus, it is said that there is a sovereign author of all other beings. This De94

Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God miurge can take the form of the big Demiurge (God, force, the will to power, etc) or the form of a little Demiurge (the correlationist subject that organizes all being). Initially these issues might appear to be very remote from Lacans account of sexuation; however, if one thinks in structural terms, it will be noticed that the philosophical orientation of vertical ontologies share one and the same invariable structure and that this structure is that of masculine sexuation. What, then, does it mean to think in structural terms? We think structurally when we bracket the content of a position or artifact, instead attending to how elements are related as empty placeholders within a formation. Think here of Pythagorass famous theorem. What Pythagorass theorem outlines is the structure of right triangles. It doesnt articulate any particular right triangle, but instead presents us with the formal structure of a set of relationships and what follows from these relationships. In this regard, two right triangles might be quite distinct at the level of their specic content while still being structurally identical. They possess the same pattern. Thus, for example, the blueprints of a house and a house itself are structurally identical, and two actual houses can be structurally identical despite having dierent colored walls, dierent ooring, and one being composed of bricks while the other is composed of stone or wood. We can plug whatever content we like into the structural positions while the pattern remains the same. The thesis of The Other Face of God is that ontotheology and theistic religion is structurally that of masculine sexuation. In other words, it is not the content that determines whether a position is theologicali.e., whether one believes in the existence of God or the supernaturalbut rather the structure. In this regard, whether were speaking of the God of theistic religions, the sovereign king of monarchial governments, the father of patriarchal family structures, dictators in atheistic governments, the nation of nationalisms, the sovereign subject that conditions all material of sensation in Kant, the structure of correlationism, certain ways in which academics relate to master-gures such as Lacan, Deleuze, Derrida, Heidegger, 95

Speculations III etc., and so on, these formations all have one and the same Oedipal structural pattern that is structurally identical to that of masculine sexuation. Vertical ontologies all share this same structure where one entity is posited as uncastrated and as capable of totalizing the heteroverse of being and all the other entities are castrated or subordinate to this entity. However, this is not all. As I try to show in The Other Face of God, it is not simply that all of these formations are structurally identical. Rather, the important point is that these structures necessarily and ineluctably generate a persecutory and paranoid structure because, due to set theoretical paradoxes internal to all attempts of totalizationRussells paradox and Cantors paradoxthese structures necessarily generate a return of the repressed in the form of the objet a, the remainder that cannot be integrated into the totality, that these structures simultaneously attempt to both destroy and recoup. Ontotheology, masculine sexuation, is necessarily a will to mastery that requires an accursed other to rationalize the failure of its totalization (the immigrant, women, the queer, the heretic, Goldstein, Satan, terrorists, etc)i.e., this remainder is misidentied as what is preventing successful harmony and totalizationand that generates the fantasy that jouissance can be captured and domesticated through a formation of successful totalization if this accursed share is just destroyed. Masculine sexuation or ontotheology is not simply a structure, it is a dangerous and destructive structure. In my most recent work I have referred to this structure as phallusophy, for phallic economies of desire are 1) premised on the fantasy that totalization is possible, 2) strive for identity and integration of all things in the heteroverse, and 3) strive to eradicate the remainder or whatever does not t. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, phallic economies of desire are those economies that strive to totalize being and master it. Again and again we see phallusophy in what should be philosophy in the form of those idealist and correlationist positions that would capture the entire heteroverse in ideas or signiers, that would master the world through the sovereign synthetic


Levi R. Bryant The Other Face of God power of a subject, or that would postulate god or an author as the origin of all things and meaning. It was The Other Face of God that rst led me to recognize this structure of traditional ontological thought and that led me to begin wondering whether or not another ontological thinkinga dierential ontological thinking that preserves the queer or alteritynot premised on mastery or the identication of being and thinking, might not be possible. This trajectory of thought was not completed until The Democracy of Objects. There I would argue that the masculine and feminine structures of sexuation mark two fundamentally dierent ways of thinking being and responding to the withdrawal of objects. The masculine side of sexuation premised on mastery and domination, seeks to treat the withdrawn nature of objects (castration) as an accidental aberration, a fault, in knowledge that can be surmounted for God or a sovereign subject that comes to recognize the identity of being and thinking. Violence is therefore inscribed in the heart of such ontological thinking as everything is to be denuded, brought into visibility, brought into mastery and control under the signier without remainder. This is the logic of identity and identication, and it is structured around the pornographic as that which strives to master and render everything visible to the concept. By contrast, I argue, the feminine side of the graph of sexuation begin from the premise that there does not exist a being that is not withdrawn (castrated), but that not-all of beings are withdrawn (they manifest themselves a bit). The feminine side of the graph of sexuation begins from the constitutively withdrawn and dierential nature of entities characterized by an abyssally withdrawn core that cannot ultimately be mastered. Within this ontological thinking assemblages can be formed among entities, but they will always be assemblages of the heterogeneous where the elements of the assemblage remain heterogeneous, lively, and surprising. Here relation is a pathos of dierence where entities appreciate their alterity and create on the basis of that alterity from across chasms in


Speculations III relating to one another. Where the masculine side strives for categorization and identication, the feminine side begins from the premise of dierence. Where the masculine side proposes an ethics and politics of the same and identical, the feminine side proposes an ethics and politics appreciative of dierence and generous towards dierence. Where the masculine side proposes a totalitarianism of the identical, a patri-archy of obedience, the feminine side proposes a community of the dierent, an an-archy, a queer politics of collaboration and invention. But, above all, reversing the traditional psychoanalytic characterization of masculinity and femininity, I argue that the masculine side represents the side of ontological semblance, while the feminine side is the side of ontological truth. If the masculine side of the graph of sexuation is the side of semblance, then this is because it obfuscates and attempts to cover over the formal deadlocks of the Real that always return to their place through the positing of a transcendent supplement whether in the form of God, Platonic forms, a sovereign, or a masculine subject. The masculine side recoils from the alterity of beings. If the feminine side of the graph of sexuation is the side of ontological truth, then it is because it inscribes these formal deadlocks at the very heart of being, facing them head on, and abjuring fantasies of completeness and totalization. Such a shift invites an ethics and politics that appreciates dierence, that is generous, and that rejects the drive to master and control.


Improper Names for God

Religious Language and the Spinoza-Eect
Daniel Whistler
University of Liverpool

Equality gives rise to challenging questions which are not altogether easy to answer. First words of Freges On Sense and Meaning1

his paper practises a NATURPHIlosophie of language. I treat texts as rocks to examine the linguistic forces that constitute them. In other words, this paper is born out of a hyper-realist attitude to sense that asserts: what goes on in texts should be subject to a linguistic physics.2 In order to bring out this linguistic physics as fully as possible, what follows is devoted to the logic of sense (or, even better, the physics of sense3) in monist philosophies. As I shall argue, monism forces the philosopher to treat words as one more class of body colliding on a surface. This is because the monist assertion that there is ultimately one thing in existence ultimately leads to the materialisation of language (at the same time as the linguistication of matter). A lacuna from the opening to Badious Logic of Worlds claries this point:
1 Gottlieb Frege, On Sense and Meaning in Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic and Philosophy, ed. Brian McGuinness (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), 157. 2

Franois Zourabichvili, Spinoza: Une physique de la pense (Paris: puf, 2002), 240.

See Joshua Ramey and Daniel Whistler, The Physics of Sense: Bruno, Schelling, Deleuze in Alain Beaulieu, Edward Kazarian and Julia Sushytska (eds.), Gilles Deleuze and Metaphysics (Lexington, ma: Lexington, 2012 forthcoming).


Speculations III
Today, natural belief [or democratic materialism] is condensed in a single statement: There are only bodies and languages. This statement is the axiom of contemporary convictionIt is then legitimate to counter [it] with a materialist dialectic, if by materialist dialectic we understand the following statementThere are only bodies and languages, except that there are truths.4

There is of course a third option: there are only bodies.5 According to such monist materialism, the linguistic is reduced to the corporeal; yet, this is a radical materialism that Badiou seems loath to mention. In this paper, however, I explore the implications of such a corporeal reduction of language by focusing on two monismsSpinozas Ethics and Schellings Identittsphilosophie. Such a naturphilosophische approach to monism emerges out of previous work in which I began to think through the consequences of the speculative turn for the study of language and concluded that a physics of divine names may well be a helpful way forward.6 That is, my contention is that the speculative turn that has recently engulfed continental philosophy needs to be thought through in the realm of philosophy of language. For while this speculative turn is also an anti-linguistic turn,7 it does not thereby foreclose philosophical investigation of language altogether. Rather,

Alain Badiou, The Logics of Worlds, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2010), 2-4. As well as the variant: there is only language. However, as we shall discover by the end of the paper, there are only bodies and there is only language turn out to be synonymous.

6 Daniel Whistler, Language after Philosophy of Nature in Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler (eds.), After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), 335-59.

Harman speaks of this ghetto of human discourse and language and power to which philosophy has conned itself for the past two hundred and twenty years (in Brassier et al, Speculative Realism, Collapse III [2007], 381) and Meillassoux is likewise concerned with the aporia to which language leads (After Finitude, trans. Ray Brassier [London: Continuum, 2008], 6); see further, Whistler, Language after Philosophy of Nature, 336-9.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God language must pass through the speculative epoch to be transformed from a medium that problematizes the very possibility of philosophy to a regional object of inquiry.8 The task is to examine language not as it exists for us, but as it exists in itself. The route I take in the present paperthinking through the consequences of monism for a logic of senseis one way of attaining this end. In particular, I delineate a monist logic of sense as a means of intervening in debates over religious language. Religious language has become a paradigmatic site for anxiety over the slippage of signs. Much ink has been spilt over theorising the complex ways in which language fails to refer in religious discourse: obsessions with the metaphorical, analogic and apophatic character of such language merely name this anxiety. The present paper pursues an alternative path, teasing out a speculative philosophy of religious language by means of an analysis of the fate of names for God in monist logics of sense.9 My construction of a Naturphilosophie of monist language is organised as follows. I begin by considering precedents in the critical literature for such an enterprise in the work of Warren Montag and Franois Zourabichvili. Turning to Spinozas Ethics, in the second section, I approach the linguistic physics it exhibits through, what I dub, the problem of improper names. That is, in dialogue with Daniel Barbers recent work on Spinoza, immanence and religion, I argue that linguistic practice in the Ethics is illustrated by the identication of the names God, substance and Nature. In order to make sense of this process of identication, in the third section, I take a detour through F.W.J. Schellings philosophy of language as presented in his Identittssystem, before returning to Spinoza once again to apply my Schellingian results. Spinozas identication of names for God is, I suggest, a Spinoza-eect to rival the Carroll-eect Deleuze identies in The Logic of Sense.
8 9

See Whistler, Language after Philosophy of Nature, 344-5.

And to this extent this paper is, very literally, a working out of the project for a physics of divine names.


Speculations III Part One: Spinozas Linguistic Physics One need not look far in either Spinozas works or those of his circle in Amsterdam to nd evidence of sustained interest in language. Balling begins The Light Upon the Candlestick with the following remark, Things are not for words, but words for things10 and goes on to present a damning critique of language as impeding knowledge and so plunging mankind into a sea of confusion.11 Indeed, he remarks, If we would better express things unto another by words and speeches, we had need nd new words and consequently a whole new language: but that would be toil and labour indeed.12 In the end, though, no such replacement language could ever be satisfactory, since language is by nature epistemically decient. Spinoza shares this critical attitude. He writes, for example, Wordscan be the cause of many and great errors, unless we are wary of themThey are only signs of things as they are in the imagination, but not as they are in the intellect.13 This is why in the TTp Spinoza is so critical of superstitious veneration of the letteradoring images and pictures, i.e. paper and ink, as the word of God.14 Words, insofar as they attempt to designate truths, fall short. However, this is not the aspect of Spinozas philosophy of language on which I concentrate in this paper. My focus is not on language insofar as it represents or makes reference to truths, but language considered in itselfas an object existing in its own right with its representative function bracketed. This is one of the implications of a Naturphilosophie of
10 Peter Balling, The Light upon the Candlestick; English translation in W. Sewel, The History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Christian People called Quakers, vol. 2, 4th ed. (London, 1800), 626. 11

Ibid. Ibid.

12 13

Benedict Spinoza, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect in Collected Works vol. 1, ed. and trans. Edwin Curley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 38.
14 Benedict Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ed. and trans. Jonathan Israel and Michael Silverthorne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 164.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God language: words are considered as objects. In the Scholastic terminology that Spinoza appropriates, I am here honing in on the formal, not objective, reality of language. That Spinoza himself makes this distinction between the formal and objective reality of language is clear from a remark he makes to Jarig Jelles:
If I see a book containing excellent thoughts and beautifully written in the hands of a common man and I ask him whence he has such a book, and he replies that he has copied it from another book belonging to another common man who could also write beautifully, and so on to innity, he does not satisfy me. For I am asking him not only about the form and arrangement of the letters with which alone his answer is concerned, but also the thoughts and meaning expressed in their arrangement.15

The point is that language exists both as a vehicle which expresses thoughts and meanings, but also as an object of study in its own right in terms of its form and arrangement. The former constitutes the objective existence of language (language as reference); the latter the formal existence of language (its materiality).16 Each of these types of existence have their own causal chain: hence, the common man is perfectly correct to identify the cause of the book in terms of its material production; however, there is also a causal chain of intentions, according to which the author tries to refer to concepts or perceptions. Language exists both formally and objectively and there is a separate science (a separate causal account) for each aspect. It could be argued that Spinozas deployment of the image of the common man here is polemical: the science of the formal existence of language is trivial and hence not worth pursuing. Moreover, Spinozas works do give the impression

Benedict Spinoza, Letter 40 in Collected Works, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), 865-6.

16 The editors in the Shirley edition ag up the dierence between the objective reality of a representation and its formal reality in explaining the above remark. (Ibid., 866)


Speculations III that he never pursues the science of the formal reality of language either in an explicit or sustained manner. However, two recent commentators (Warren Montag and Franois Zourabichvili) have argued that this impression is misleading and that Spinoza does indeed engage in the science of the formal reality of language or linguistic physics, as Zourabichvili dubs it. Montags reading of the TTp in Bodies, Masses, Power involves Spinoza in precisely such an endeavour. As he insists, for Spinoza texts are part of nature: Scriptura, sive Natura.17 In other words, writing is a physical body and needs to be treated as such. Scriptura, sive Natura illustrates what makes Spinoza the rst philosopher explicitly to consider Scripture, that is, writing, as a part of nature in its materiality.18 It is primarily for this reason, according to Montag, that Spinoza intervenes in the debate over the interpretation of Scripture in the TTp: to persuade readers that texts are not merely vehicles for conceptual referents, but should be read as entities in their own right. Spinoza rejects the quest for the supertextual19 or, as Montag puts it more fully, Writing, whether sacred or not, is fundamentally corporealWriting is part of nature, a body among other bodies, and, if it is eective, moves other bodies to act or to refrain from action.20 In short, the TTp examines the formal reality of Scripture, ignoring for the most part its objective reality. It contributes to the Spinozist science of the formal reality of language. Zourabichvilis Spinoza: Une physique de la pense explicitly takes up the distinction between formal and objective reality as the guiding thread to Spinozas philosophy. In particular,
17 Warren Montag, Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and his Contemporaries (London: Verso, 1999), 5. It is important to note that Montag conceives such sive statements as a form of dialectical identity, where the rst term gives way to the second. I oer an alternative, non-dialectical reading below (ibid., 4-5). 18

Ibid., 5. Ibid., 6.


Ibid., 21. Montag denes superstition as sole concern for the objective reality of language: The superstitious person forsakes the surface (of nature, of Scripture) in favour of the depth. (Ibid., 8)


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God Zourabichvili attempts to reconstruct a physics of ideas (the laws and structures of thought running parallel to a physics of bodies). His book therefore revolves around the question of the formal being of ideas.21 Indeed, such a physics cogitative is noticeably absent in the Ethics itself: the precedence Spinoza gives to the attribute of extension in Part II ensures that knowledge is discussed only in its objective existence insofar as ideas relate to bodies. Curley, for example, takes this as a symptom of Spinozas Hobbesian temptation to reductive materialism.22 Ideas seem to exist to the extent that they represent bodiesand Spinoza neglects to sketch in any detail how ideas relate to each other: The Spinozan physics of thought is absent.23 This is the lack Zourabichvili addresses. He asks, What would it be to consider the idea in its formal being and thus to relate it to an autonomous eld of production analogous to that of physics, what would it be to conceive a physics cogitative with its own laws (not ones merely transposed from the physics of bodies)?24 For our purposes, the most signicant part of his answer to this question concerns the incomplete Hebrew Grammar. For Zourabichvili, the very idea of a grammar is a transposition of this quest for a physics of thought onto the linguistic plane: Grammar is the name of a linguistic physics, for there is no reason not to treat a text as a natural object obeying certain laws.25 The Hebrew Grammar consists in a science of the formal reality of language. It is the linguistic complement of a physics of thought. Hence, just as in a physics of extension bodies are formed and in a physics of thought ideas are formed, in grammar a text is treated as an individual formed itself from multiple individuals.26

Zourabichvili, Spinoza, 115.

Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 74-8; see Zourabichvili, Spinoza, 113-4.
22 23

Zourabichvili, Spinoza, 10. Ibid., 115. Ibid. Ibid., 240.

24 25



Speculations III Montag and Zourabichvilis work provide, then, two precursors to my argument in this paper. For them as for me, Spinoza does indeed engage in a science of the formal reality of language, a linguistic physics or (in my anachronistic expression) a Naturphilosophie of language. In what follows, I want to pursue this idea in the Ethics itself. That is, I argue that the logic underlying much of Spinozas rhetoric in the Ethics can be formulated in terms of just such a linguistic physics. Taking Montag and Zourabichvilis research as my jumping o point, I attempt to ll out in more details just what such a physics would look like in detail. In particular, it is the deployment of the terms God, substance and Nature which orients my attempt to formulate a Spinozan grammar. As I indicated in my introduction, such an enterprise has signicant consequences for philosophy of religion (as well as for philosophy of language); hence, I begin by considering a powerful interpretation of Spinozas use of these three terms from within contemporary, continental philosophy of religion. Part Two: Naming Immanence with Barber What follows revolves around two concepts: improper name and proper name. Spinoza denes a proper name as follows: By means of a proper substantive noun it is possible to indicate only a single individual, for each and every individual has a proper noun for himself only.27 It is a noun that is sufcient for successfully naming one concept and that concept alone (in certain contexts). An improper name can therefore be dened as one name that is insucient for successfully naming one concept and that concept alone (in any context). These denitions are signicant because Spinoza deploys more than one name for God; he speaks of God, substance and Nature indierently, giving none priority. If the name God were a proper name, this rhetorical practice would be redundant: there would be little reason to provide more

Spinoza, Hebrew Grammar in Complete Works, 600.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God than one name. Therefore, God seems to be employed as an improper name: on its own, God is insucient; it stands in need of supplementation. Prima facie, this is odd: God seems to be precisely one of the only names that successfully pick out a unique concept. My task therefore is to determine how and why God can be thought of as an improper name, despite all indications to the contrary. Daniel Barbers recent essay, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, makes use of the impropriety of the Spinozan name God in order to reinterpret the notion of the secular. The secular has, of course, come under criticism in the last decade owing to the imperialist nature of its historical manifestations: everything particular in religious traditions has been forced, the argument goes, to be translated or mediated through the universal language of secularity. The secular is a transcendent plane that is imposed on the specicity of religions. Therefore, Barber echoes the call made by all postsecular thinkers:
What must be expelled is what has been installed [by imperial secularity]: a transcendent, universal planeThe capacity to think without a transcendent plane must be pursued. It is in this sense, and in this sense alone, that philosophy of religion must become secular.28

Yet, there is an obvious dierence that emerges here between Barber and postsecular thinking: while the latter calls for the elimination of the secular tout court, Barber demands a reinterpretation of the secular as an immanent, and not transcendent, plane.29 And he achieves this end of articulating an
28 Daniel Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion in Smith and Whistler (eds.), After the Postsecular and the Postmodern, 161-2. A fuller statement of Barbers arguments can be found in On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion and Secularity (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011). Here, his armation of the secular is less fulsome. 29 That such a reinterpretation is possible and that postsecular thinkers have therefore foreclosed this alternative by moving too quickly is the wager of Barbers essay: I will argue for a secularity that is intrinsic to immanence. Only the rigour of immanence provides the possibility of a secularity that


Speculations III immanent secular via Spinoza. Barber argues that there are a number of paradoxes in Spinozas thought which shed light on how immanent secularity would function: they are paradoxes that harbour the potentiality for the sort of immanent secularity and immanent armation of religion I am proposing.30 The rst paradox takes up Spinozas claim: Deus sive Natura. In complete opposition to the philosophical tradition as well as common sense, Spinoza identies God and naturethese two names refer henceforth to the same thing. In Barbers words,
[God or Nature] is, of course, a notoriously enigmatic statement. Is it that these two terms are reversible, where they name the same thing but from dierent vantages? Is the distinction between these terms meant to preserve a real dierence in signication, or is the distinction primarily strategic, in which only one terms designates the real (the other then being strategically preserved yet remaining ultimately derivative or epiphenomenal with respect to the real)?31

The problem is merely compounded when one adds substance to the mix, since substance is another name Spinoza employs synonymously with God and nature. Spinoza therefore has three names which each seem perfectly appropriate ways of referring to one thing (i.e. that thing which is referred to by the names God, nature or substance; I will henceforth call it, following Barber, immanence). Immanence has three equally good names; this, then, is Barbers formulation of the problem of improper names. 2.1 The Second Solution In the above quotation, Barber gives two unsuccessful soluhas nothing to do with a transcendent plane. I will argue, furthermore, that an immanent secularity provides a new way of thinking about religion (Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, 162).
30 31




Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God tions for justifying the impropriety of Spinozan names. These alternatives exhaust most traditional responses to the problem; however, as Barber rightly asserts, both of them ultimately fail. According to the second alternative, only one of the names is really adequate to immanence or designates the real (in Barbers words). The other two names are inadequate, and employed merely for strategic reasons. For example, God might be taken as a merely strategic name which Spinoza thinks is inadequate to refer to immanence, but that is still used in the Ethics as a cover for his atheism. In short, Spinoza could think that only one of substance or Nature is an adequate name for immanence; if this is so, the problem of improper names would be dissolved, because actually Spinoza would be committed to the claim that esoterically substance (for example) is the proper name for immanence. However, the problem is that there is no sucient warrant for choosing any one of the three names: Spinoza never makes clear which name he prefers. There is no evidence nor even any criterion on which to make the choice; hence, any choice would ultimately be arbitrarydeciding the undecidable, even. For example, to write o God as a strategic cover for Spinozas genuine thought seems implausible considering Spinozas strident defence of his theism in his letters.32 At no point does Spinoza ever let his guard down to reveal himself an atheist; to call him one, then, is mere guesswork. Indeed, despite Leo Strauss fame for jettisoning the linguistic surface of Spinozas text in the name of a hidden meaning, even he is suspicious of writing o God in the Ethics as a strategic cover or appeasive term.33 There is no way of discriminating between God, Nature and substance as names for immanence. Hence, Barber speaks of the inadequacy of a reductive interpretation of Spinozas act of naming.34
32 33

See, for example, Spinoza, Letter 43 in Complete Works, 879-81.

Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 188-90. He insists that prior to any judgment on this matter, one has to see whether there are not anywhere in Spinozas writings indications, however subtle, of a strictly atheist beginning or approach (ibid., 189).

Barber, On Diaspora, 3. He continues, If God is really meant to signify


Speculations III 2.2 The First Solution There is another option considered in the above quotation. On this alternative, each name refers to immanence, but the dierent connotations (or Fregean senses) of each name means that they all add something to our idea of immanence. Substance, God and Nature, that is, all give a dierent perspective or vantage on what immanence is, and so cumulatively such perspectives dene it completely. On this view, each name refers successfully but incompletely (or inadequately)and this is why they require supplementation by each other. This is a version of the claim that each name expresses an attribute of Godan argument that Spinoza himself employs when it comes to human names (specically, Jacob and Israel).35 Barber concludes that this alternative cannot be correct either. This is because, for Barber, no name can successfully refer to immanence, because ultimately immanence is nameless immanence; it is that which forever eludes signication. If substance, God and Nature fail to refer to immanence (which is inevitable, according to Barber), then they are unlikely to successfully connote aspects of it, however incompletely. Barbers argument thus makes use of a central concept in his essaynameless immanence. Another way of problematizing this supposed solution is to be found in Spinozas denition of adequacy in Part II of the Ethics: By adequate idea I understand an idea which, insofar as it is considered in itself, without relation to an object, has all the properties or intrinsic denominations of a true idea. I say intrinsic to exclude what is extrinsic, namely, the agreeNature, what does it mean that God is nonetheless invoked as sign? (ibid., 4). You want me to explain by examplethough it is not at all necessary how one and the same thing can be signied by two namesBy Israel I mean the third patriarch; by Jacob I mean that same person, the latter name being given to him because he seized his brothers heel. Spinoza, Letter 9 in Complete Works, 783. On the relation of Gods attributes to names, see Gillian Howie, Deleuze and Spinoza: Aura of Expressionism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 29-36.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God ment of the idea with its object.36 An adequate idea, Spinoza insists, has nothing to do with the success or failure of its reference;37 rather, adequacy is the intrinsic aspect of truth and this intrinsic aspect is synonymous with completeness.38 An adequate idea is absolute.39 This distinction between intrinsic and true maps precisely onto the distinction already made between formal and objective reality: adequacy therefore indicates an excellence of formal reality.40 Two further premises are required for this argument to function. First, Spinozas presentation of his philosophy in the Ethics is adequate. This remains a controversial point considering Spinozas sometimes negative views on language (discussed earlier). For example, Savan argues, Spinozas views on words and language make it impossible for him to hold that his writings (or anyone elses) can be a direct or literal exposition of philosophical truth. He continues, So sharply does Spinoza separate words from adequate ideas that it is dicult to make out for language any useful philosophical function at all.41 Nevertheless, I contend the above claim must be true to some extent for Spinoza to claim to be communicating the truth, and so for present purposes I will assume that Spinoza did think his philosophical writings (somehow) expressed the truth adequately. Second, a complete idea would contain every connotation or sense pertaining to its referentthat is, a complete or adequate idea would include every possible perspective on its subject-matter. From these three premises, it follows that each adequate name for immanence is complete
36 37

Spinoza, Ethics in Collected Works, IId4.

Instead, a true idea must agree with its object. (Ibid., Ia6)

38 This is the presupposition behind the doctrine of common notions: concepts which are legitimately universal and all-encompassing. See ibid., IIp40s1. 39 40

Ibid., IIp34.

Hence, in what follows, I use adequacy to denote the formal excellence of names and success to denote the objective excellence of names, i.e. names insofar as they do refer to a concept or percept are successful. David Savan, Spinoza and Language in S.P. Kashap (ed), Studies in Spinoza (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 239.



Speculations III and there is no necessity for it to be further supplemented by the addition of further names. And to the extent that any one of the names used in the Ethics is adequate, additions are redundant: each name is absolute in itself. Therefore, the problem of improper namesthe problem of the seeming redundancy of Spinozas proliferation of names for immanenceremains intact. 2.3 Barbers Answer Barber himself claims that all three namesGod, substance and Naturemust be improper, because what they attempt to name (immanence) is ultimately unnameable. This unnameability does not, however, lead to mystic silence, but an endless proliferation of new but necessarily unsuccessful names. At the heart of his argument stands the claim that immanence is nameless;42 in fact, it is unnameable. The reason for this is to be found in how Barber characterises the naming process itself: to name something is always necessarily to install a transcendent plane. Barber writes, if God or Nature are considered proper names, in each case immanence has been subjected to a transcendent planebut immanence remains irreducible to such subjection.43 To subject immanence to a transcendent plane is to falsify it; therefore, immanenceif it is to remain immanencecannot be named.44 Or, to be
42 43

Barber, Secularism, Immanence, 164.


What is Philosophy? is of course the source of this claim. Deleuze and Guattari write, The plane of immanence is like a section of chaos and acts like a sieveChaos makes chaotic and undoes every consistency in the innite. The problem of philosophy is to acquire a consistency without losing the innite into which thought plunges (Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, What is Philosophy? trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson [London: Verso, 1994], 42). In other words, there are three types of thought: chaotic thought which is innite but inconsistent, immanent thought which is both innite and consistent and transcendent thought which is consistent but nite. To name immanence is to make it nite; it is to determine it and x it in certain respectsconverting an innite plenitude into something


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God more precise, it cannot be named outside of a ctive register in which naming acknowledges its own inadequacy. Yet, Barber is no less insistent that, even though it is nameless, immanence still gives rise to an endless proliferation of inadequate names. Signication is necessary45it is part of the becoming of immanence that it is necessarily falsied by signication; or, as Barber himself puts it, The ontological priority of immanence runs into the mediatic priority of signication.46 Hence, though no name ever successfully refers to immanence, with immanence comes an endless proliferation of names which attempt to do so. This proliferation is, dubbed by Barber, the excessiveness or surplus of immanence: immanence goes beyond itself by generating names which endlessly fail to capture it. So, while it is impossible to name immanence, it is also impossible not to name immanence.47 This is therefore Barbers solution to the problem of improper names. Spinoza employs improper names for God, because immanence always necessarily generates more and more improper names. Immanence gives rise to the paradoxical necessity of signifying that which has no proper name.48 2.4 Barber and Apophaticism At a number of points, Barber strongly distinguishes his position from apophaticism. His solution to the problem of proper names, he claims, evade[s] the lure of apophaticism.49 This is because, for Barber, apophaticism negates names in favour of a nameless transcendent plane. Therefore, while it
nite and rigid. To name is therefore to install a transcendent plane. This is why to name immanence (non-ctively) is to falsify it, and so immanence is properly nameless.

Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, 163. Ibid., 163.

46 47

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 167.




Speculations III may supercially appear that Barbers strategies in dealing with names are apophatic, the result of these strategies is profoundly non-apophatic: rather than indicating something beyond all immanence which cannot be named because it is so other, they indicate something so immanent it cannot be named. Thus, Barber continues, Immanence exceeds signication not because it belongs to a plane beyond signicationthis would turn immanence into yet another mode of transcendence.50 Immanence does not exist beyond names, but logically prior to names (as their transcendental condition). I am sceptical of this argument for a number of reasons. First, negative theologians would agree that their God exists prior to names, as an immanent condition productive of names. That is, Barbers characterisation of apophatic theology as installing a transcendent plane is unfair. Second, apophaticism denotes a practice, rather than a resulta practice of apophasis or negation: one can therefore practice apophaticism in the name of immanence, just as happily as one can practice apophaticism in the name of transcendence. Henri Bergson and Samuel Beckett, for example, are apophatic thinkers of immanence.51 Therefore, I characterise Barbers solution to the problem of improper names as apophatic, and this is because it shares the dening characteristic of all apophaticism: a dissatisfaction with language as such and so an overriding concern to negate or show up the inadequacy of that language in the name of the nameless. Barbers central claim that immanence is properly nameless and so therefore
50 Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, Barber continues in On Diaspora, The operation I am tracing here is not identiable with the logic of negative theology. While it is the case that negative theology also grapples with the diculty of naming the nameless, it is equally the case that negative theology addresses this diculty by signifying that the object of signication is unsigniable. Immanence, however, cannot permit this strategy, for such a strategy makes the unsigniable into something that transcends signication (8). 51 On Becketts non-theological apophaticism, see my comments on Sandra Wynands Iconic Spaces: The Dark Theology of Samuel Becketts Drama (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) in Literature and Theology 22.4 (2008): 494-7.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God all names are inadequate is the very claim repeated by all apophatic thinkerstheologians or otherwise.52 It is here that I locate my fundamental disagreement with Barbers solution to the problem of improper names (at least as this problem is to be found in monistic philosophies). Barber claims that immanence is properly nameless because it exists prior to all naming: Immanence is prior to signication, he claimsand this priority, he goes on to specify, is an ontological priority.53 As a reading of Spinozas use of improper names, the disjunction between names and nameless immanence is misguided for two reasons. First, for a rigorous monist like Spinoza (and, we shall see, the same is true for Schelling), immanence is each name. There is no ontological priority here, but only ontological identity. In fact, the productive monisms of Spinoza and Schelling do away with the hierarchy of being altogetherand this hierarchy is of course the precondition of being able to claim that something is prior to something else.54 For Spinoza, there is merely identity. Immanence does not exist before names, it only exists as names. In the second half of the paper, I am going to explore the metaphysical reasons why this is the case; for the moment, however, I merely want to claim that in asserting the priority of immanence to its names, Barber does not take Spinozas monism seriously enough. Second, if Spinoza wrote the Ethics adequately (see section 2.2), then the names he uses in the Ethics, like God, substance and Nature, cannot fail to refer to what they
52 For example, Barber stands in the apophatic tradition when he claims that the task for philosophy of religion is to recognise the names of the secular as ctive (Barber, Secularism, Immanence, 169). He writes, It is thus imperative to inhabit that dierence between immanence itself and the ctions it intrinsically produces (ibid., 169). Apophaticism is precisely the practice by which this dierence is recognised and inhabited, for this dierence represents the inadequacy of all language to capture what is properly nameless. See also Barber, On Diaspora, 8. 53

Barber, Secularism, Immanence, 163.

Martial Gueroult, Spinoza vol. 1 (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1968), 299; Gilles Deleuze, Expression in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone, 1990), Chapter 11.


Speculations III intend to refer to. If they were to fail, the whole of the Ethics would collapse and become mere wordplay with no genuine reference to reality.55 Therefore, for Spinozas philosophy to function as philosophy (i.e. to make claims about the truth), Barber cannot be rightSpinozas improper names for immanence must actually succeed in naming immanence. These two reasons indicate that Barbers solution to the problem of improper names cannot be correct in Spinozas case (although it might be a perfectly good solution more generally). Barber is wrong to claim that Spinoza employs improper names because they fail to refer. Moreover, just as Barbers solution to this problem fails, so too does every apophatic solution, because apophaticism necessarily claims that all names fail in some way, shape or form. It is here that I am intervening in debates in philosophy of religion: apophaticism is not the answer here, and this is a hard pill for continental philosophy of religion to swallow. The natural inclination of most continental philosophers of religion is to resort to apophatic solutions when there is any kind of conundrum concerning language. As soon as a diculty concerning religious language is raised, the assumption is that language is a falsication, because God is other or because God transcends human discourse or because language is structured by dirance and so on. This is one of the reasons I am focusing on Spinoza and Schelling here, for they are the philosophers most distanced from the apophatic worldview. Their uncompromising rationalismtheir concern to know everything because everything is immanentmeans one cannot explain away their philosophy of religious language apophatically. One of the dening characteristics of such kataphatic thought is the excess of names they deployone name is insucient for their purposes. Hence, Spinoza uses God, substance and Nature synonymously, while Hegel speaks almost synonymously of God, the absolute and Spirit. My contention is that every apophatic solutionevery solution premised on the inadequacy of namesfails to ac55

It will be seen later in the paper that I need to qualify these claims somewhat.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God count for this plurality of names. Spinoza therefore wakes us from our apophatic slumbers: he forces us to look elsewhere, re-evaluate the problem of religious language and do philosophy of religion dierently. In other words, philosophers of religious language have been obsessed with the inadequacy of names to the point of ignoring kataphatic deployments of language. However, the speculative turn is kataphatic in orientationand much work now needs to be done on analysing and unpacking the way kataphatic texts signify. Part Three: Schellings Metaphysics of Language I thus need to approach anew the problem of improper names in order to work out what a metaphysics would look like in which what is referred to by God or substance or Nature is ontologically identical with those names. Through this metaphysical inquiry, I hope to show how monists solve the problem of improper names. To do this, I now turn to the Identittssystem of F.W.J. Schelling.56 In the Identittssystem, Schelling demonstrates why, on the basis of a productive monism, God is the name God or reality is the name reality. The metaphysics of Schellings Identittssystem reveals how names can be improper. 3.1 Schellings Productive Monism Presented in Six Propositions Proposition One: Immanence has more than one name Unsurprisingly enough, Schelling gives a plurality of names to immanence (or what fundamentally exists in reality). He
56 For a fuller account of and further justication for the reading of Schelling which follows, see Daniel Whistler, Schellings Theory of Symbolic Language: Forming the System of Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 forthcoming). In this paper, I assume that between 1801 and 1805 Schellings work forms a self-sucient whole and that the major works of this period can therefore be studied in isolation from the rest of his corpus. The philosophy of this period is called, following Schellings lead, the Identittssystem (the system of identity), and all of the claims I make about Schelling in what follows are meant to apply to the Identittssystem alone.


Speculations III employs these names practically interchangeably throughout his Identittssystem. The names include the absolute, identity, indierence and God. It is not the case that Schelling prefers one of these names (for example, the absolute) and uses the others derivatively or secondarily to describe certain properties or attributes of this absolute. Each name is an adequate name for what is. There is no necessity for Schelling to use more than one name, yet he does: God, identity, indierence, reality and the absolute are improper names. Why, to ask once again, is Schelling so insistent on employing them all? Proposition Two: Immanence is one The Identittssystem eectively commences with Schellings claim, Absolute identity is not the cause of the universe, but the universe itself.57 Combating philosophys long and profound ignorance about this principle, Schelling rediscovers the true nature of realitymonism.58 He writes, All that is is, to the extent that it is, OneThere is everywhere only One Being, only One true Essence.59 This is, of course, why the Identittssystem is called the Identittssystem, because all of reality is self-identical. Immanence is identical with itself. Proposition Three: Immanence consists in form and essence Schelling sees immanence as comprised of two elementsessence and form. While these two elements are utterly identical, the philosopher is able to isolate them individually. So, reality is in essence indeterminate identity, but it is also necessary
57 F.W.J. Schelling, Werke, vol. 4, ed. K.F.A. Schelling (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856-61), 129; Schelling, Presentation of My System of Philosophy, trans. Michael G. Vater in Philosophical Forum 32.4 (2001), 359. 58

Ibid., 129, 359.

Ibid., 6:156; Schelling, System of Philosophy in General and of the Philosophy of Nature in Particular in Idealism and the Endgame of Theory: Three Esssays, ed. and trans. Thomas Pfau (Albany: suny Press, 1994), 153.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God that essence cannot exist without form. Essence always exists formedthere are no exceptions. There is therefore no such thing as unformed immanence; there is no such thing as essential identity free from formal identity. Immanence is always already determinate. There is no ineable behind or beyond to what is expressed that never manifests itself; there is no hidden transcendence. Proposition Four: Form produces essence Form neither represents nor emanates from essence; instead, Schelling conceives of a third model for the form/essence relation. The foundation on which Schellings alternative is built is the principle that formation is inescapable. For Schelling, this means that immanence exists by producing its own essence through a process of formation. Schellingian philosophy conceives essence as excessive: the produced essence is always more than it was prior to production. Determination is not a prison which stops us reaching what matters most; what matters most is in fact rst produced in the very act of determination. Formation can never be a diminution, alienation, distortion or loss of essence. There is a perpetually excessive surplus of essence. Proposition Five: Even though all forms express identity, there is more than one form If everything is the sameif Schelling is a monisthow can formal identity give rise to the irreducible multiplicity of everyday life? Schelling insists that form is not singular; there is a plurality of formal identities in existence. In other words, reality is refracted into multiple instances of identity. This is how plurality arises in the Schellingian cosmos. Schelling designates these various manifestations of the law of identity Darstellungen (or presentations or exhibitions). Every thing and every idea is a Darstellung, much like it is a mode for Spinoza.


Speculations III Proposition Six: Dierentiation is quantitative What then dierentiates these forms? Schellings answer is classically monist: there is only one substance that comprises all there is; the only dierentiating attribute is therefore the degree to which this substance is instantiated. This is what Schelling means when he speaks of amounts of being60 or degrees of the absolute,61 or dierent grades of identity.62 It is also what Grant means when he speaks of the quantity of identity each entity possesses for Schelling.63 Two claims are therefore central to Schellings doctrine of quantitative dierentiation: rst, dierentiation is a matter of form, and, second, it is a matter of the degree or the excess to which each form produces essential identity. 3.2 Schellings Theory of Language Every Darstellung is a construction of reality to a certain intensity; there is therefore a hierarchy of Darstellungen proceeding from those which are maximally productive of identity to those which are minimally intense. Schelling once more has numerous names for the type of form that exists at the top of this hierarchy: idea is one name he uses, but for our purposes the most pertinent name is symbol. In his Lectures on the Philosophy of Art, Schelling writes. Darstellung of the absolute with absolute indierence of the universal and the particularis possible only symbolically.64 The symbol represents the highest, most intense formit stands at the top of the hierarchy: The symbolic is the
60 61

Schelling, Werke, 4:123; Schelling, Presentation, 355.

Ibid., 2:64; Schelling, Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, trans. Errol E. Harris and Peter Heath (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) 48.
62 63

Schelling, Werke, 4:431.

Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophy of Nature after Schelling (London: Continuum, 2006), 174.
64 Schelling, Werke, 5:406; Schelling, Philosophy of Art, trans. Douglas W. Stott (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1989), 45.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God absolute in itself.65 Examples of symbols for Schelling are organisms, artworks, philosophy and theologythey are all examples of maximally intense productions of reality. Yet, Schelling is equally insistent that not all symbols are equally intense, because they do not all manifest the identity of real and ideal (or matter and idea) to the same extent. That is, Schelling conceives the possibility of predominantly real and predominantly ideal symbols. The extent to which symbols identify real and ideal thus becomes the criterion by which to dierentiate and assess them. And, in fact, Schelling claims, there is only one symbol which identies the real and the ideal fully, and this is symbolic language. Language, Schelling writes, is the most appropriate symbol of the absolute or innite armation of God66: it is an absolute Darstellung, so exhibits identity to the maximum possible extent. Language is not just an ordinary Darstellung (or form of reality), it is not merely one instance of a symbol, it is the most intense possible symbol. Schelling argues that language is the only symbol which overcomes the real/ideal binary, and so it expresses identity to an even greater extent than any other symbol. It is the symbol of symbolsthe indierence of indierencethe identity of identity.67 In Wannings words, Nothing more intense is possible within the Identittssystem.68 The fact that language is the only symbolic form to fully indierentiate real and ideal has the further consequence that language manifests reality most. To describe something in language is to produce it in the most intense possible manner. Entities exist most in words. Or
65 Henry Crabb Robinson, Schellings Aesthetik in Ernst Behler, Schellings sthetik in der berlieferung von Henry Crabb Robinson, Philosophisches Jahrbuch 83.1 (1976), 161. 66 67

Schelling, Werke, 5:483; Schelling, Philosophy of Art, 100.

Jochen A. Br, Sprachreexion der deutschen Frhromantik: Konzepte zwischen Universalpoesie und grammatischem Kosmopolitismus (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), 165.
68 Berbeli Wanning, Konstruktion und Geschichte: Das Identittsphilosophie als Grundlage der Kunstphilosophie bei F.W.J. Schelling (Frankfurt am Main: Haag und Herchen, 1988), 166.


Speculations III put dierently, the reality of an entity is its name. Discourse, names and propositions are more than anything else can possible be. Our next question is what does this mean for languagewhat is the structure of a Schellingian name? There is one fundamental element to Schellingian symbolic language: Meaning is here simultaneous with being itself, passed over into the object itself and one with it.69 Schelling is committed to an absolute identication of meaning and being in symbolic language. What a word means is nothing dierent from what it is. Language does not signify something outside itself. It is its own meaning. Words do not represent something in the world; in fact, there is no outside to words. In short, Schelling eliminates signication from symbolic language. Meaning does not (even partially) exist separate from beingand so no process or activity (including signication) is required to transfer from the latter to the former. Language remains completely immanent to itself: it is completely self-contained and self-sucient. Signication and reference are no longer valid categories. If reference is no longer a valid category for understanding language, what is? As we have seen, forms are characterised by the extent they produce essential identityand the same is true for language. So, production of identity is the goal of Schellingian symbolic language; it is what remains after the elimination of reference. What matters is not the referent (for there is none), but the product. Symbolic language does not refer to reality; it produces reality. The rejection of reference frees language from correctly or incorrectly representing an already existing entity; what is rather at stake is how intensely entities are generated through language. Description is replaced with production. There is a further important consequence: if words produce the absolute more or less intensely, then there should be ways of increasing the intensity of such production. These modes of intensication I dub symbolic practices. Through them, Schelling hopes to transform all language into symbolic

Schelling, Werke, 5:411; Schelling, Philosophy of Art, 49.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God language. What we have here is a version of the Romantic process of Bildungwhat Schelling dubs, the gradual intensication of all forms,70 and the symbolic practice required to make language symbolic is eclecticism: it is only through the eclectic accumulation of names for reality that Schelling thinks language (and so discursive practices, like philosophy) can become fully symbolic. Returning to Schellings metaphysics shows why: Schelling is a monist with regard to essence: there is one essence to reality, and this essence is identity. In consequence, all sciences have essentially the same subject matteridentity. All future scientic endeavour will repeat the same essence over and over. Scientic progress does not therefore consist in what is said, but how it is said. The form of science becomes the crucial issue. The Schellingian ideal is a form of philosophy (a language) which produces essential identity with the maximum possible intensity. This point can be turned reexively back onto Schellings own practice: the Identittssystem merely repeats the same essence as all other philosophies. It is when it comes to form, Schelling claims, that it is to be set above everything else. The Identittssystem is self-consciously constructed around this insight into the centrality of form to the philosophical endeavour. This is ultimately the reason why Schelling experiments with dialogue (in Bruno) and with the more geometrico (most rigorously, in the 1804 System); it is the reason why he adopts Spinozist vocabulary, then Platonic vocabulary, then theological vocabulary. All these various experiments in form are variations on one fundamental practice which Schelling thinks will make his system the most intense. According to this symbolic practice, all previous scientic discourse is reduced to the status of materials that can be appropriated to aid the production of identity. I designate this practice, absolute eclecticismthat is, the magpie-like appropriation of individual concepts and styles from various scientic discourses for the sake of producing reality.
70 Schelling, Werke, 5:147; Schelling, On Construction in Philosophy, trans. Andrew A. Davis and Alexi I. Kukuljevic in Epoch 12.2 (2008), 285.


Speculations III In other words, all forms produce identity, but some do it better than others; therefore, the task of the thinker is to locate the most productive aspects of each science and assemble them into a system; the result is a system of identity, an Identittssystem. The thinker must choose anything and everything that will intensify her form of discourse and so intensify identity. In consequence, impropriety becomes the very ideal of scienceand the Identittssystem in particular is built on the virtue of impropriety. An improper science is one unconcerned with borders between elds, but which plunders every science (and every name) equally in order to intensify its productivity. It is the reason behind Schellings appropriation of Platonic language and Spinozist method into his philosophy, andmost signicantly for this paper eclecticism is the reason behind Schellings use of improper names. God, the absolute, identity, indierence are names taken from various dierent discourses and brought into the Identittssystem for the purpose of intensifying the philosophical language in which Schelling writes. Improper names for God are eclectically appropriated and deployed for the sake of a higher level of intensity in the Identittssystem itself. Because Schelling employs improper names, he produces reality better.71 This long detour into Schellings philosophy of language therefore helps with the problem of improper names. Two conclusions are especially crucial. First, reality is most paradigmatically a name. What is exists most intensely as a name. Second, Schelling demonstrates that a monist must do away with reference: referential relations assume some dierence between word and meaningand this cannot be the case for monists. Adding these claims together leads immediately to the conclusion: names for God are God or names for immanence are immanence. For monists, whether a name successfully refers is a redundant question: the adequacy or inadequacy of a name has nothing to do with reference. The apophatic
71 By which I mean intensively better or better in the sense of Spinozan adequacy, rather than better in reference to an external model or archetype.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God contention that names necessarily fail to refer to reality has no relevance to the problem of improper names as it occurs in Spinoza and Schellings philosophy. Insteadleaving behind the way apophaticism usually frames the debateI contend that absolute eclecticism provides the model to account for improper names: the more names given, the more intense scientic language becomes. These names are intensive productions of the absoluteand they become more intense, the more names are used. The success of the productive monism Schelling proposes in his Identittssystem ultimately depends on the plurality of names he incorporates into this system. Improper names are, for Schelling, always an improvement over proper names, because plurality is an intensication. This, then, is Schellings solution to the problem of improper names. Part Four: Philosophy of Language for Monists 4.1 Spinoza Revisited This Schellingian solution illuminates Spinozas own employment of improper names. First, Spinozas rigorous commitment to immanence means that there is no such thing as pure immanence. Any notion of immanence existing separately from its manifestations is false. Just as for Schelling there is no essence that is not formed, so too for Spinoza there is no substance outside of its modes.72 Immanence does not in any way stand above or outside its expressions. Substance is exhausted in its modes. There is nothing behind the manifestations, for they are reality. In consequence, names for God (or substance or Nature) do not name something distinct from these names, for there is no substance as such or God as such. Immanence is fully and completely expressed in its modesand names are modes too. Therefore, immanence is nothing outside of these names. Immanence is fully contained in the very names
72 See Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy, 27; Genevieve Lloyd, Spinoza and the Ethics (London: Routledge, 1996), 41.


Speculations III for immanence. Names are self-sucient: they need refer to nothing outside themselves. So, just like Schelling, Spinozaas a rigorous monistmust eliminate the referential relation from his philosophy. God, substance and Nature are not referential, so whether they refer to immanence or not is just not an issue. There is no such thing as apophaticism for Spinoza, since a name cannot fail to refer. This suggests an answer to the overriding question: if each name is a self-sucient expression of immanence, why the need for a plurality of names? For Schelling, while all names construct immanence, some do so better than othersand the intensity of this construction ultimately depends on the number of names appropriated into philosophy (for it is through this plurality names are intensied). I contend that something like this must be true for Spinoza: the adequacy of the names employed in the Ethics depends on their interrelations with other names. The more complex the network of names, the more adequate the philosophy. So, just like Schelling, adding names intensies philosophical discourse. Numerous scholars have acknowledged that the Ethics is a text in which the meaning of traditional, philosophical names are transformed. Rocco Gangle writes, Spinoza uses old terms in new ways such that a new subversive notion is created,73 continuing,
Spinoza consistently employs philosophical terminology that has come to possess relatively precise and technical meanings across the sedimented histories of ancient philosophy and medieval Scholasticism, yet Spinoza uses these terms in ways that shift or distort their traditional senses, imposing unfamiliar meanings[often] directly opposed to the traditional sense.74

Spinozas use of God is a case in point: Spinoza begins with

73 Rocco Gangle, Theology of the Chimera: Spinoza, Immanence, Practice, in Smith and Whistler (eds.), After the Postsecular and the Postmodern, 26. 74 Ibid. See also Zourabichvili, Spinoza, 111-2; Aaron Garrett, Meaning in Spinozas Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Chapter 6.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God a traditional-looking denition only to demonstrate over the rst fourteen propositions that logical rigour necessitates a new, heterodox understanding of this name. Names are mutated by passing through the propositions. Moreover, and this is the key claim, names are mutated by means of the relations they take up in respect to other names. Transformation occurs through the continual juxtaposition of dierent terms; their resulting new relations in Spinozas philosophical system is what alters their meaning. In Gangles words,
[A name is a term] whose relational context becomes altered. Its new sense is generated not internally or intensively, but externally or practically through syntactical and formally deductive connections with other terms.75

This is what Gangle (following Zourachbivili) terms a chimerical translation76: it is a form of alchemy by which names are transmuted by mixing, dissolving and colliding with other names, in the same way as all modes mix, dissolve and collide with each other. Names (as one specic type of mode) should not be excluded from this physics (as we have seen Zourachbivili and Montag argue). A physics of names is just as necessary as a physics of passions. Hence, Gangle speaks of a new textual practice of metaphysics77 in regard to the Ethics. The results of Spinozas philosophy are generated on the textual surface: Spinozas propositions chart the manner in which names collideand this mapping process is named the geometrical method. Gangle thus speaks of the geometrical method in terms of topographical maps of peaks and valley oorsor the hubs of a transportation

75 Gangle, Theology of the Chimera, 27. Gangles work brings out the close relation between the problem of improper names and the problem of individuation in Spinoza. 76 77

Ibid., 28.

Ibid., 30.


Speculations III network.78 Names collideand the record of these collisions is Spinozas philosophy. In short, therefore, Spinoza employs improper names because only through putting to work a plurality of names can their mutation be guaranteed. God is an improper name because it needs other names (substance or Nature) in order to give rise to the philosophical transformations necessary for adequate philosophy. Spinoza puts a plurality of names to work in order to intensify his philosophy: the more relations that build up between these names over the course of the Ethics (i.e. the dierent combinations and relations envisioned in the propositions), the better the philosophy. Moreover, the type of relation that holds between dierent names is always, I contend, identityjust as for Schelling. This is another consequence of monism: everything is ultimately one, therefore the only possible form of relation between names is equality. So, the adequacy of Spinozas system is in fact achieved by means of the successive identications of a plurality of names. As these identications proliferate, Spinozan philosophy intensies. God is not only equal to substance, it is equal to Nature and so Nature must be equal to substance. It is implicitly in this manner that Spinozas philosophy proceeds over the course of hundreds of propositions. And, what is more, this mode of procedure is the Spinozist solution to the problem of improper names.79 Armed with these resources, it is time to briey return to Barbers argument. In opposition to Barber, I maintain that immanence does not precede the name; immanence exists only as it is expressed in the name. In other words, immanence does not presuppose a nameless plane, but rather a textual surface on which names collide. Immanence is these names (such is the necessary implication of Spinozas monism) in their

Gangle, Theology of the Chimera, 31.

It needs to be kept in mind that I am not arguing that the Holocaust is the same as ice cream for a monist (as one critic has recently argued [Conor Cunningham, Genealogies of Nihilism (London: Routledge, 2002, 68)]), but that the names Holocaust and ice cream are ultimately identied in an ideal monist discourse (see Part Five). The ethical implications of this difference are substantial.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God constantly complexifying interrelations and identications. The surplus which characterises immanence is generated as more and more names are identied (for these identications are the very surplus of immanence). The more improper names, the more intensely immanence exists. A philosophy of the secular, therefore, must name immanence as much as possible: not because we are doomed to fail again and again, but because naming intensies immanence. Names bring immanence into being. 4.2 The Logic of Monist Sense Improper names are involved in a process of indenite identication, where the making identical of one name to another gradually intensies philosophical form, making the discourse more and more adequate. This is how names function once reference is eliminated (as it must be for monists). And this is the solution to the problem of improper names: the more names are made identical, the better the philosophy. Let us take one more look at this from a dierent angle, beginning from the standard Fregean picture of language, in which all names have both sense and reference. Frege denes a name as a word or sign which expresses its sense and designates its reference. As well as referring, names expressand this is the key to unlocking the problem of improper names for monists. Once reference is eliminated, what remains is expression or sense.80 What is particularly pertinent here is that Frege developed this theory precisely through an examination of the sorts of cases we have been considering. What is the dierence, he famously asked, between saying the morning star is the morning star and the morning star is the evening star? That is, if morning star and evening star have the same reference, why use two nameswhat epistemic benet is there in using two names for the same thing rather than one? In other words, when reference is redundant, what is left of language? As one commentator puts it,

Or what Schelling calls production.


Speculations III
If the names corefer, there is no dierence in the references of the constituents of a=a and a=bSo either they cannot express dierent propositions, or elseand this is the inference Frege drewwhat determines the propositioncannot just have to with the structure of the [sentence] and the references of its constituent words and phrases.81

In other words, either improper names are useless, because they all mean the same thing (by picking out the same referent),82 or there is something other than reference at stake in language which gives rise to improper names. The irreducible remainderwhat is left over when reference becomes redundantis sense. As Deleuze emphasises in The Logic of Sense, sense is absolutely irreducible to reference, for they work according to very dierent logics. The logic of sense is not the logic of truth and falsity.83 For monists (who have eliminated reference), names cannot be true or false because they can neither succeed nor fail to refer to something external. Sense works on a completely dierent model, a model of more or less intense expression.84 Monist philosophical texts therefore become surfaces on which names intensify their sense. This is what is theorised

Graeme Forbes, Proper Names in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy vol. 7, 752.

If we were to regard equality as a relation between that which the names a and b designate, it would seem that a=b could not dier from a=a (Frege, On Sense and Meaning, 157).
82 83 He writes, This is the most general problem of the logic of sense: what would be the purpose of rising from the domain of truth to the domain of sense, if it were only to nd between sense and nonsense a relation analogous to the true and the false? Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester (London: Continuum, 1990), 80. 84 If, as Gabriel has argued, Frege establishes the distinction between sense and reference in order to show that the semantic organisation of meaning, i.e. the order of words, is not identical with the ontological order of things (Markus Gabriel, The Mythological Being of Reection in Gabriel and Slavoj iek, Mythology, Madness and Laughter: Subjectivity in German Idealism [London: Continuum, 2009], 65), then by eliminating one of the terms in this distinction (reference), Spinoza and Schelling rearm the identity of words and things. Signicantly, Frege does consider the possibility of a special term for signs intended to have only sense (Frege, On Sense and Meaning, 163)but his choice, representation, does not seem helpful for my purposes here.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God in Deleuzes The Logic of Sense and practiced in Spinozas Ethics. The Ethics as a whole is, to quote Deleuze out of context, a machine for the production of incorporeal sense.85 It is a surface on which names connect with each other in order to generate more and more intenseso more and more adequateseries of propositions. This is the surface eect which donates philosophical sense. Names frolic on the surface of being, and constitute an endless multiplicity of incorporeal beings.86 Now, as Deleuze makes clear, dierent texts chart dierent surface eects: each philosophical singularity is generated from specic operations on the textual surface. Hence, in The Logic of Sense Deleuze describes a specic set of surface operations employed by certain philosophers which he dubs, the Carroll eect:
Sense is always an eector, even better, a surface eect, a position effect and a language eectIt is a product which spreads out over, or extends itself the length of, the surfaceSuch eect, or such a product, have usually been designated by a proper and singular nameThus physics speaks of the Kelvin eect, of the Seebeck eect, of the Zeerman eect, etc.87

This specic set of operations of the Carroll eect consists in paradoxes which give rise to heterogeneous series. What I have been arguing in this paper is that there is a specic Spinoza eect which describes the set of operations employed by a rigorously monistic philosophyand this Spinoza eect is irreducible to the Carroll eect described by Deleuze. There is ultimately only one operation performed on the surface of monistic philosophyidentication. Identications proliferate indenitely, devouring all that is dierent in the name of the same. There can be no contradiction, no absurdity, no excess or lackonly a continual and all-devouring

Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 82.

Brhier, quoted in Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 8. In short, every name in Spinozas philosophy falls foul of Meinongs paradox! See ibid., 41-2.
86 87

Ibid., 82.


Speculations III process of identication.88 This is a Spinoza eecta logic of sense without paradox, a proliferation of identications on the textual surface of philosophy. The more names, the more identications, the better the philosophythis is not only true for Schellingian absolute eclecticism, it is true for all rigorous monists. Part Five: An Ideal Spinoza In the previous section, I outlined the rudiments of an ideal Ethics which would read as follows,
Proposition 1 Proposition 2 Proposition 3 Proposition 4 Proposition 5 Substance Substance = God Substance = God = Nature Substance = God = Nature = Banana Substance = God = Nature = Banana = Harry Lime

This structure would proceed ad innitum, rather in the manner of the paratacticism analysed in Anti-Oedipus (substance and Godand Nature).89 It exemplies the logic of monist sense and the deployment of improper names. In this ideal structure of the Ethics, name after name is identied for the sake of philosophical amelioration. However, what becomes striking at this point is the discrepancy between this ideal Ethics and the Ethics Spinoza actually wrote. The Ethics does not look like thisand this is because the above logic of monist sense is only a partial reconstruction of Spinozas philosophical rhetoric. There is more going on and there are more linguistic forces at play than just the identication of names. Spinoza exceeds the Spinoza eect.
88 Even if Spinoza is read in terms of parallelism, there can in the end be only one series of sense, i.e. the series of propositions of the Ethics itself. This is one of the meanings of Spinozas claim that everything follows necessarily from Gods essence; there are no parallel series of sense. 89 Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley et al (London: Continuum, 1984), 6.


Daniel Whistler Improper Names for God Yet, the above rewriting of the Ethics is not only ideal to the extent that it diers from the real Ethics, it is also ideal in a second sense. It reconstructs the Ethics by means of one ideal, expansive linguistic force alone. In other words, what has been under discussion in this paper is merely one element of a Spinozist Naturphilosophie of language: the ideal force by which more and more names are appropriated into relations of identity.90 It corresponds to Negris delimitation of an ideal phase in Spinozas thinking (an idealism that is not surprising considering the proximity of Spinoza to Schelling in this paper).91 Here, we can fully realise the extent to which the transformation of language into a body has reversed itself into a transformation of bodies into language. The materialistic reduction of language into a Naturphilosophie leads necessarily to the anti-realistic insistence that there is nothing outside the name, that names are most real. Perhaps Badiou failed to acknowledge the radical materialism in which there are just bodies because this turns out not to be materialism at all, but linguistic idealism. It is no surprise that the above structure comes closest to being realised at the end of Part V of the Ethicsthe fullment and culmination of Spinozas construction of philosophy where he embraces monism most fully. Here, indeed, Spinozas propositions are often little more than a series of equations. To take one example, the human subject loves God,92 God loves himself93 and these two acts of love are identical: The minds intellectual love of God is the very love of God by which God loves himself.94 Such a process of identication culminates
As iek points out, expansion and the traversal of plurality are proper to monism: Spinoza, the philosopher of the multitude, is, quite logically, also the ultimate monist, the philosopher of the one. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity (Boston: MIT Press, 2003), 24.
90 91 Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinozas Metaphysics and Politics, trans. Michael Hardt, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 33-9. 92 93

Spinoza, Ethics, Vp15d. Ibid.,Vp36.

Ibid., Vp35.



Speculations III in Vp36c: Insofar as God loves himself, he loves men, and consequently Gods love of men and the minds intellectual love of God are one and the same.95 Here is how Matheron describes this climax to the Ethics:
Subject and object are utterly confused with one another. I love myself in God, I love God, God loves himself in me, God loves me. The four armations are equivalent...The terms of the relation are purely and simply identied...[in] the following quadruple equation: our love for God = our love for others = Gods love for men = others love for us = others love for God.96

Part V ends in a single series of equations proliferating identities. However, the question of how Spinoza gets to this point has not been broached in this paper. This has only been a fragment of a linguistic physics: contraction, the realist force that counteracts expansion and brings it down to earth is yet to be determined. This force resists the innite process of identications of the ideal Ethics. Exposition of this element of a Naturphilosophie of monist language must therefore await a future occasion. Acknowledgements Thanks are due to Dan Barber for gracefully helping me articulate my worries with his work more precisely, as well as to Charlie Blake, Rocco Gangle, Philip Goodchild, Patrice Haynes, Joshua Ramey, Steve Shakespeare and Anthony Paul Smith for their discussions on this paper.


Spinoza, Ethics, Vp36d.

Alexandre Matheron, Individu et communaut chez Spinoza (Paris: Minuit, 1969), 596-7.


Namelessness and the Speculative Turn

A Response to Whistler
Daniel Colucciello Barber
Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry

appreciate the engagement of my work that Daniel Whistler has provided. I do not think his reading is ultimately accurate, but that is to the side, because its point of approach allows me to develop a number of ideas that are central not only to the interpretation of Spinoza and the problematic of religious language (or the naming of the divine), but alsoeven moresoto the future of thought in general after the speculative turn. In what follows I will argue, rst, that Whistler fails to appreciate the way the concept of namelessness functions in my theoretical construction of Spinzoas thought. I will then address the various diculties raised by Whistlers own account of identity, before proceeding to consider how my disagreement with Whistler runs right to the heart of arguments about the nature of the speculative turn. Indeed, my contention is that namelessness, as I articulate its immanent relation with the act of naming, is resonant with an essential tendency in the work of philosophers such as Eugene Thacker and Ray Brassier. Finally, I will look at how the concept of namelessness serves to indicate and oppose a still-eective Christian hegemony over philosophy.


Speculations III Apophaticisms Not the Right Word The basic point of misrecognition in Whistlers interpretation of my essay, I think, is found in the alliance he sets up between my work and apophaticism. He does, of course, note that I reject such an alliance, but he proceeds nonetheless to insist on itand he does so by claiming that my argument shares the dening characteristic of all apophaticism: a dissatisfaction with language as such and so an overriding concern to negate or show up the inadequacy of that language in the name of the nameless.1 It is true, of course, that I am concerned to bring attention to the impossibility of properly naming immanence. I claim, as Whistler rightly notes, that there is a surplus of immanence, that immanence necessarily exceeds its names. This is true. But what is also true is that immanence must be named, and more precisely that it must be named in virtue of this excess. What is at stake, in other words, is the relation between names and namelessness. To say, then, that immanence cannot be adequately named, or that every naming of immanence must still contend, after the act of naming, with an excessive namelessness, is to utter only a partial truth. It is to attend to one side of the relation (the side with which Whistler identies my position). The other side of the relation (the side of my position that Whistler ignores) concerns the way this excessive namelessness loops back upon names. My point is not just that namelessness exceeds names, it is that this excess necessitates the creation of new names. What this relationality should highlight is the processual nature of my proposal. To put it somewhat simplistically, the act of naming immanence must give rise to an awareness of the excess of immanence to the enacted namesthis is what I have in mind when I speak of the namelessness of immanence. But the process does not stop there. On the contrary, this awareness of excessive namelessness must give rise to
1 Daniel Whistler, Improper Names for God: Religious Language and the Spinoza-Eect, Speculations III: 114.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn the production of new names, i.e. to a further enactment of names, at which point the process I am outlining would repeat itself. What Whistler leaves to the side, I am claiming, is the moment whereby excessive namelessness loops back to necessitate the continued act of naming. By ignoring this moment he freezes the very relay about which I am speaking. Indeed, the essence of my position is not the failure of language before nameless immanence (as Whistler implies). Neither is it the inelidable identity between names and immanence (as Whistler seems to positively argue). It is rather the irreducible nature of the relay between the naming of immanence and the namelessness of immanence. The upshot of my argument, then, is not that there is something called immanence that can never be named. It is rather that immanence is intrinsically relational, it is always immanent to itself, and therefore that the naming of immanence must be situated within this process of relation, or relay. Whistler appears to attribute to me the claim that immanence, because of its namelessness, is simply beyond all names. I do not make this claim, for to do so would be to turn immanence into something transcending signication; it would also be to make the nameless into its own kind of name. My position, more precisely, is that it is proper to immanence to be improper, to exceed itself, and to do so by doubling every namea co-constitution of namelessness and names. Namelessness is the relay of names, and names are the relay of namelessness. Thus there is a basic temporality or diachronicity to my armation of relay, and Whistlers oversight of this fact leads him to read me as talking about the objective inadequacy of improper names, when I would claim that what matters is the process of improperly naming. In order to substantiate this interpretation of my argument, let me refer to and comment upon a passage from my essay: signication betrays immanence when it makes immanence immanent to what is signied, but, at the same time, immanence must be signied. Only by insisting on this


Speculations III double necessity do we evade the lure of apophaticism.2 It should be noted that my dissatisfaction with signication here has nothing to do with its existence as such, but rather with the position that it could possibly assume with regard to immanence. If signication betrays immanence, this is due not to its nature as signication, but rather to its tendency to transcend immanence, to foreclose immanence under the banner of a name or names (and such a tendency toward foreclosure may be resisted or avoided). To arm the namelessness of immanence, then, is not to oppose the naming of immanence, it is to oppose the reduction of immanence to signication. It is for this reason, in fact, that I join the armation of namelessness with the armation that immanence must be signied. This, once again, is to indicate that what is at issue here is not merely the excess of immanence to signication, but just as much the (necessary) looping back of this excess upon signication. Apophaticism focuses on the necessity of language exhausting itself in relation to the nameless, whereas my relay focuses on this necessity as well as the necessity of the nameless being constructively re-expressed through yet another act of naming. It should be noted, furthermore, that my argument is for the productivity of this relayI continue, in the same passage, by contending that immanence exceeds signication because it produces signication, and because this signication is within immanence.3 Whistler sees apophaticism as laboring in virtue of the name of the nameless, and this is to attribute to it a kind of telos of protecting the nameless from names.4 The direction in which I take the inadequacy of signication, however, is the production of signication. Quite importantly, this produced signication is within immanence. In other words, signication, even when it is
Daniel Colucciello Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, in Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler (ed.), After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010), 167.
2 3 4

Ibid., 167.

Whistler, Improper Names for God, 114.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn addressed in relation to the namelessness of immanence, is never severed from immanence. It is not a matter of some opposition between nameless immanence in-itself and a multitude of inadequate names, it is rather one of the relay between them. In fact, immanence just is this relay. To belabor the point a bit more, but also hopefully to conrm my claim that I have no stake in any opposition between immanence and names, it should be observed that I assert that the aim is to restore signication to immanence, to signify immanently, and that my position is less a matter of iconoclasm than a matter of polyiconicity.5 I want to stress this notion of polyiconicity because it is the point at which my argument becomes most dicult to reconcile with Whistlers portrayal of it as a kind of apophaticism. In fact, it is by way of polyiconicity that my position seems to advance some of the theses that Whistler sets forth in apparent contradiction to my supposed apophaticism. When he claims, for instance, that immanence is each name, or that immanence only exists as names, what is he arming that I am not already arming in terms of polyiconicity?6 To say that immanence is polyiconic, after all, is to say that immanence is multiply named, that immanence really is named in a variety of manners, or modes. Accordingly, it seems quite strange that Whistler would read my argument as an apophatically-motivated denial of the claim that immanence is expressed in its names. Interrelations Must Be External to Their Names The fact that Whistler would read me as apophatic and iconoclastic, when I explicitly call for polyiconicity, is one that needs to be explained, and I think it can be explained by observing the narrative of continental philosophy of religion that he proposes in his own essay. There he tells us that he is intervening in debates about philosophy of reli5

Barber, Secularism, Immanence and the Philosophy of Religion, 167. Whistler, Improper Names for God, 115.


Speculations III gion precisely at the point where he opposes apophaticism. Indeed, apophaticism is not the answer here, and this is a hard pill for continental philosophy of religion to swallow.7 He goes on to observe that philosophers of religious language have been obsessed with the inadequacy of names to the point of ignoring kataphatic deployments of language.8 So Whistlers intervention, the hard pill hes distributing, is that continental philosophy of religion needs to end its aair with the apophatic, and that it needs to give attention to the kataphatic. I highlight this narrative because I believe it is what structures Whistlers misreading of my argument. According to this narrative, the obstacle to be overcome is apophaticism, and the way beyond this obstacle is kataphaticism. So which side is my argument on? It should be clear that its not straightforwardly identiable with one side or another. But if Whistler ignores the kataphatic, polyiconic tendency of my position, then it becomes much easier to ally me with the apophatic. I hope to have already demonstrated why such an alliance requires misrepresentation of my argument. Now I would like to turn, briey, to the diculty created by Whistlers own kataphaticism. The approach of absolute eclecticism, whereby it is asserted that the more names given, the more intense scientic language becomes, is compelling, and one that I agree with in part.9 The appeal of this approach is its ability to bring a multitude of names into relation with one another, and to arm that such names are expressive of immanence. These, in fact, are points that my own position advances, such that my positions dierence stems not from its failure to advance the kataphatic but rather from its insistence on the irreducible relation between the kataphatic and the apophatic (to continue using Whistlers terms). The necessary connection between armative naming and namelessness can be seen in the diculty to which Whistlers own, sheerly armative position gives rise.

Whistler, Improper Names for God, 116. Ibid., 117. Ibid., 125.

8 9


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn This diculty begins to emerge when we pose the question of how these various names relate to one another. There is nothing to protest in Whistlers claim that all names may be equally expressive of immanence, or even that immanence exists only as it is expressed in the name.10 The diculty arises, however, when we begin to ask about the relations between these names. The names must be in common, they are univocal, yet this does not change the fact that the names, considered individually, do not agree. So what we face here is a univocity of disagreement. Again, thus far there is nothing o the mark, but such an account remains incomplete, for this disagreement must operate. Whistler grasps this when he speaks of immanence as a textual surface on which names collide and identies immanence with the constantly complexifying interrelations and identications of these names.11 All of this is true. Yet it must be asked: if these names are not just in identication but also in interrelation, then must not such relationality be thought as such? The relations, in other words, must be in excess of the names, and so what is this excess? It will be necessary to conceive not just the names, but also the condition that enables them to relate to one another productively. What I am here calling attention to, in Whistler, is the diculty engendered by denying that there is anything conditioning names. Obviously that which conditions the naming of immanence cannot be something that transcends the names, but this condition (of the interrelation of names) must be otherwise conceived. Whistler does make some attempt to conceive it when he speaks of a textual surface. But what is this surface? Does it have a name? If it does have a name, then it cannot be that on which names collide, for it would be yet another one of the colliding names. Thus it does not have a name. But if it does not have a name, then would it not be the very namelessness that I have advanced, and that he has critiqued?
10 11

Whistler, Improper Names for God, 128.

Ibid., 128-129.


Speculations III Whistler appears to displace this diculty by attributing to my position the invocation of a nameless plane.12 But there is no such thing in my argument: namelessness, once again, is not something beyond names but instead that which relays them with one another. Namelessness is interstitial, it is the condition that enables names to collide and to intensify one another. To speak, as Whistler does, of an identity of all names and immanence is not exactly incorrect, but it is incomplete, for it cannot conceive the interstitial relations of these names. To write o attempts to conceive such interstitial namelessness as apophaticism is, in fact, to remain within apophaticisms frame by way of inversion. Instead of asserting the inadequacy of names, Whistler inverts the approach and asserts the adequacy of all names. My contention is that these approaches are equally awed, and that what is exigent is an account of the relay between adequacy and inadequacya relay that is prior to their mutual exclusion. The relay of namelessness and a multitude of names, in the end, has nothing to do either with an absolute failure of language or with an absolute identity of names and immanence. Its concern is the dierence between a multitude of names, all of which express immanence, but each of which diers from the other. Immanence, Whistler remarks, is fully and completely expressed in its modesand names are modes too.13 In these terms, the question becomes one of the relation between modes. Gilles Deleuzes own attempt to improve Spinoza is here relevant. He transposed the relation between intensive and extensive modes into the relation, respectively, between the virtual singularities and actual individuals. In doing so, however, he broke with Spinozas one-to-one relation between intensive and extensive. The actual individual became a resolution of a virtual dierence in-itself. What Deleuze grasped, in other words, was that virtual dierence must be conceived as something akin to pure disagreement. The virtual, pre-individual eld of singularities was univo12 13

Whistler, Improper Names for God, 128.

Ibid., 125.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn cal, but this univocity was irreducible to any identity. Only in this way, I would contend, is it possible to make sense of the sort of collision of which Whistler speaks. This, then, is the condition of interrelation of modes, or namesa condition that I speak of as excessive namelessness. Such excess is therefore not beyond or separate from names, but neither is it reducible to the names, or their simple identity; it is rather the dierential, nameless colliding of names. The diculty resulting from Whistlers failure to conceive this namelessnessthe namelessness which conditions the interrelation of univocally expressive namesbecomes especially evident in his statement that Immanence is fully contained in the very names for immanence.14 This cannot be the case, precisely because (as Whistler himself acknowledges) immanence is constituted not just by names but also by their interrelation. Immanence requires not just names, but also that which is produced by their collisionand that which is produced by the names must exceed the names, it must consist of their dierence. Furthermore, it is not apt to think of immanence as something that is contained in something else. This would be to turn immanence into a name, one that is apparently both enclosed within in a multitude of other names and yet (confusingly) another one of these names. Once again, it is only by thinking of immanence not as simultaneously a name and the identity of all names, but instead as the relation of, or relay between, namelessness and names, that this diculty can be avoided. Namelessness and the Speculative Turn I have already observed the presence, in Whistlers argument, of a narrative according to which continental philosophy of religion is urged to leave behind its fetishization of negativity and to reclaim kataphatic deployments of language. His narrative adds, notably, that this demand concords with the


Whistler, Improper Names for God, 125-126.


Speculations III speculative turn, which is kataphatic in orientation.15 So, if the speculative turn is bound up with Whistlers kataphatic turn, does my argument also stand against, or at least outside of, the host of philosophical developments associated with speculative realism? Not at all. In fact, what I would like to observe, as a way of troubling Whistlers narrative, is the possibility of espying, within the speculative turn, a tendency that is not at all kataphatic. Of course, the tendency I have in mind is not exactly apophatic eitherhence my dissatisfaction with the mutual exclusion inherent in Whistlers narrative. What is compelling about the speculative turn, when viewed in relation to the question of how immanence is named, is its ability both to critique the human pretension to delimit access to the real and to arm the capacity to name the real through an encounter with that which exceeds pre-existing articulations. It is this sort of tendency, rather than a more traditional apophaticism, and rather than Whistlers emergent kataphaticism, that is indicated by the namelessness of immanence. As an instance of the tendency I have in mind, we might refer to Thackers discussion of a non-human or unhuman mysticism, one which would no longer be theological in a traditional sense, but which would make use of this theological material in a radically ungrounded manner. As he puts it:
If the supernatural in a conventional sense is no longer possible, what remains after the death of God is an occulted, hidden world. Philosophically speaking, the enigma we face is how to confront this world, without immediately presuming that it is identical to the world-for-us (the world of science and religion), and without simply disparaging it as an irretrievable and inaccessible world-in-itself.16

The emphases that emerge in Thackers prescription are those of the enigmatic and the hidden, andimportantly

Whistler, Improper Names for God, 117.

Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy, Vol. 1 (Alresford, UK: Zer0 Books, 2011), 97.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn for my purposesthey are positioned neither in terms of the kataphatic (which would repress the enigmatic character of the real) nor in terms of the apophatic (which would abandon the real to the simple beyond). Thackers interest, to translate itsurely with too much bluntnessinto the terms of my debate with Whistler, is to focus on a real that is simultaneously non-manifest (at least in any direct manner) and non-inaccessible. We have to do, then, with something that is accessible yet hidden. If we take this as an instance of thought that emerges after the speculative turn, then we see that there is no need to adopt a narrative in which the kataphatic overcomes the apophatic. An awareness of the immanent relay of namelessness and names is much more to the point. Indeed, we see something precisely like a conception of this relay in Thackers remark that mysticism todayafter the death of Godwould be about the impossibility of experience, it would be about that which in shadows withdraws from any possible experience, and yet still makes its presence felt, through the periodic upheavals of weather, land, and matter.17 While I agree with Whistlers critique of continental philosophys overdependence on apophaticism, I do not accept that namelessness, as I develop it, falls under this critique. Nor do I accept that namelessness need be seen as mutually exclusive with the speculative turn. On the contrary, as I hope to have indicated with this brief mention of Thackers work, it is possible to see namelessness as a novel and speculativelydriven account of what it means to think under the condition of an encounter with the enigmatic real. There is no need to see this encounter in terms of Whistlers denition of identity. In fact, even when identity plays a key role in speculative thought, such as it does for Franois Laruelle, it is encountered only through a radical displacement, through a bracketing of normative philosophical practice by way of the non-. Here, it could be said, namelessness functions as a condition for the performance of thoughtof non-philosophy.


Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet, 158.


Speculations III Namelessness and Decontraction Against Biotheology I thus contend that namelessness, far from involving a defensive apophaticism that doubles-down on the limits of the human before an inaccessible beyond, bears an essential anity with the speculative turn. It belongs to the attempt to conceive of negativity or unknowability in terms of active voiding or annihilating.18 Spinozist namelessness, as I have developed it, has a particularly strong resonance with the thesis of Brassiers Nihil Unbound, especially its concluding remarks. There Brassier puts his account of the inorganics priority over organic life in terms of decontraction: Although life diverges from the inorganic in ever more circuitous detours, these are no more than temporary extensions of the latter, which will eventually contract back to their original inorganic condition, understood as the zero-degree of contraction, or decontraction.19 If we understand namelessness in terms of the inorganic, and names as so many divergent circuits of life, then we can nd yet another resonance between the relay I am advancing and the possibilities of thought made available by the speculative turn. In fact, Brassiers logic of the relation between the inorganic and organic life, like that of the relation between excessive namelessness and the multitude of names, articulates an unthinkability that, without being traditionally apophatic, calls for the voiding or annihilation of every desire for full identity, or for a plentitudinous containment of immanence. The identity that is here advanced is not the one proposed by Whistler, whereby all names would be identical with immanence. It is instead the identity that is unthinkable by human life. It is the identity of namelessness and every name, an identity much like that found in decontractions
Along these lines, another vector of thought with which my concept of namelessness of resonates is that of Nicola Masciandaro. See, for instance, his Unknowng Animals, Speculations II: 228-44, or The Sorrow of Being, Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 19: 9-35.
18 19 Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), 360.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn being-nothing, where we nd the identity of entropic indifference and negentropic dierence.20 Every name is made possible by an indierent namelessness, and every name, in its construction of this indierence, diers from every other name, thus constructing namelessness collisionally and dierentially. The identity that is ultimate, then, cannot nally be namednot even as identityprecisely because it is that of every name and namelessness; namelessness cannot be integrated (nor contained) within identity, for identity is ultimately that of namelessness and every act of naming. The implications of all this are not just philosophical, they are also politicalor, more precisely, theologico-political. The desire to remove every obstacle to identityfrom whence does it arise? Or, what makes it so powerful, so dicult to resist? There are, of course, a number of ways one might answer this question, and without claiming to have found the only possible answer, I would like to call our attention to one possibility: Christianity. This is obviously not the only source motivating the tendency towards absolute identity, but it is certainly one of the major sourceshistorically and materially speakingof this tendencys support, maintenance, and normalization. For far too long we have treated philosophy as something clearly and distinctly dierentiated from religion, when in fact these two domains (or concepts) have overlapped and interwoven everywhere, especially when their distinction is insisted upon. And this overlapping and intertwining of philosophy and religion has a history, a hegemonically Christian history.21 There are several implications and lines of research that stem from an insistence on this point, but for the moment I want to observe a single consequenceand this is that the
20 21

Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 364.

I have developed the genealogical and conceptual implications of this thesis in my recent book, On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity (Eugene, OR: Cascade Press, 2011). For more on the still-determinative inuence of Christianity within our purportedly secular and post-Christian epoch, see the work of Gil Anidjar, especially Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008).


Speculations III Christian desire for the identity of all is very much still in play as we interpret and respond to the speculative turn. I would propose that Brassiers antagonism towards life should be simultaneously understood as an antagonism towards the history of Christianity. Indeed, the philosophical concept of lifeespecially when we highlight its connotations of integration into the one true life, of all life in one, beyond its dierencescannot be disentangled from the theological concept of life. As Gil Anidjar has perceptively argued, the contemporary problem of the biopolitical is really a problem of the biotheological.22 On the interpretation I am advancing, then, when Brassier poses the inorganic against organic life, his basic orientation is not eliminativist, not nihilist, and not even anti-correlationist. It is anti-Christian, and precisely because it exerts violence on the ultimately violent instinct to integrate everything, including nothingness, into life (or Life). Before life, after life, always haunting lifethere is death. Nothingness, we might say, is the alpha and the omegaor, even better, it is before the alpha and after the omega. Along these lines, I do not nd it surprising that Nihil Unbound concludes with a discussion of two Jewish thinkers, i.e. Levinas and Freud, for Jewish thought has always dened itself in relation to (and more or less in opposition to) Christian thought. We should not presume that this Christian-Jewish dierence passed away with the dawn of supposedly postChristian, secular thought. Indeed, both Levinas and Freud paid essential attention to the way being Jewish aected thought, which is to say not only that they knew the pressures of integration and identication, but also thatunderstanding how normative accounts of the thinking subject depended on a denial of this subjects conditionalitythey directed thought at the pre-cognitive. They understood that thought should be given not to what the human is dened as able to think, not to the world as it correlates with the human subject, but instead to what aects the subject prior to its self-identication, to
22 See Anidjar, The Meaning of Life, Critical Inquiry 37: 697-723. My argument in this section is signicantly indebted to the work Anidjar does in this essay.


Daniel Barber Namelessness and the Speculative Turn what the subject disavows in the name of its being-subject. Brassier, I am proposing, should be read as part of this antinormative, anti-Life, anti-Christian tradition. What he has in common with Levinas and Freud is an awareness of the way that every attempt at integration disavows its identity with that which makes it impossiblein this sense, Brassiers entropic indierence belongs to the same lineage as Levinas alterity and Freuds unconscious. And all of these, I might add, could be connected to the kabbalistic rendering of Genesis 1:1, which reads, With Beginning, created Elohim.23 What this Jewish mystical text claimsagainst Christian orthodoxys belief that the life of God can be identied with the divine-human life of the Son of God, and that all human life can and/or should be identied with the concrete-universal of Jesusis that even God (Elohim) is conditioned. Furthermore, the conditions of God cannot be correlated with Gods being. That which created God, or conditions Gods existence, is . It is nameless, and yet not beyond. Even God (or Nature) is haunted by this namelessness.

23 Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, trans. Daniel Matt (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983), 50.


Truth-Procedures in Derrida and Badiou
Christopher Norris
School of English Communication and Philosophy University of Cardiff

I adious relationship to Derrida is complex, ambivalent, at times distinctly fraught, and often despite an impeccable politeness of phrasingsomewhat impatient in tone. All the same it doesnt exhibit anything like the pattern of routine inter-generational conict that has characterised so many episodes of post-war French intellectual history. Thus it bears no resemblance to those acts of barely concealed parricidal intent by which Sartre ousted the dominant currencies of pre-war (whether rationalist or Bergson-inuenced) thought, or the structuralism of LviStrauss, Althusser and company purported to consign Sartrean existentialism to the dustbin of outworn humanist ideas, or structuralism in turn gave way to the combined assaults of post-structuralists, postmodernists and other such reactive movements. Indeed there is something decidedly majestic about the way that Badiou rises above such manifestations of the short-term Zeitgeist or sad displays of the odium scholasticum that all too often substitutes for serious debate. His attitude toward Derridaas evidenced by the brief but revealing encomium collected in the volume Pocket Pantheonis one of admiration mixed with a certain ironic reserve and some 150

Christopher Norris Diagonals shrewdly aimed though far from hostile remarks about the lack of any direct activist involvement on Derridas part in the events of May 1968.1 Even here Badiou is keen to make allowance for the highly mediated character of deconstructive politics or the need to approach that topic with a due regard for Derridas immensely patient, meticulous and painstaking way with texts, among them (if belatedly) the texts of Marx.2 More than that: he puts the case for Derrida as a political thinker of the rst importance, just so long as we read his work with the kind of extreme attentiveness and rigour that he brings to the work of others. So Badiou is unencumbered by any desire to stake his claim as a replacement matre penser or as one who has seen through the kind of textualist mystication that has often been laid at Derridas door by Marxists, activists, and from a dierent through related angleby Foucault in his early polemical rejoinder.3 Nevertheless, I shall argue, it is a complex relationship and one that brings out some salient tensions not only between the two thinkers but also within their respective projects. Badious answer in the Pocket Pantheon essay might well be characterised as a case of interpretative strong revisionism as Harold Bloom describes it, that is, a mode of commentary that aims not so much to establish a relationship of delity and subservience to the text in hand but rather to transform or trans-value that text in keeping with the commentators own priorities.4 Of course this is Badious regular practice in the many exegetical chapters of Being and Event where he takes a whole roster of the great philosophers from Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle to Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and their modern progenyalong with
1 Alain Badiou, Pocket Pantheon: gures of postwar philosophy, trans. David Macey (London: Verso, 2009).

Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx: the state of the debt, the work of mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge, 1994).
2 3 Michel Foucault, My Body, This Paper, This Fire, Oxford Literary Review, Vol. IV, No. 1 (1979), 9-28. 4

See for instance Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Inuence: a theory of poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973).


Speculations III poets such as Mallarm and Hlderlinand subjects them to a reading (mostly in the critical-diagnostic mode) accordant with the books general thesis.5 Such reading goes against the intentional grain so as to bring out those symptoms of conict, internal contradictions, or conceptual stress-points that indicate the workings of a transverse or diagonal logic at odds with the overt gist. This is often a matter of showing how the argument turns back against itself and can be seen to undermine its overt commitment to a plenist ontology that would, in eect, preclude any real possibility of change whether in states of mathematical-scientic knowledge, conditions of the body politic, or modes of artistic practice. It involves an alertness to certain symptomatic blind-spots of repression whose existence, once detected, opens the way to a radically dierent subtractive ontology wherein that possibility not only exists but becomes the chief motor or driving force of progress in those various domains. My reference to Bloom on the process of creative misprisionthe way that strong misreaders (poets for the most part) absorb and then transform the work of their great dead precursorsneeds to be qualied in one major respect. That is to say, Badious is a distinctively philosophical approach where intellectual creativity goes along with a high degree of conceptual and argumentative rigour and can therefore claim something more in the way of exegetical warrant or justication. I must defer any detailed commentary on the crucial signicance of mathematics (more specically, of developments in set-theory after Cantor) for his thinking about the dialectic of being and event, or the process whereby a given ontology or conceptual scheme comes up against that which radically challenges and eventually transforms its operative scope and limits.6 What interests me here is the dierence between Badious deployment of this basically dialectical (or
5 Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2006). 6 See Badiou, Being and Event; also Number and Numbers, trans. Robin Mackay (London: Polity Press, 2008).


Christopher Norris Diagonals immanent-critical) approach as applied to thinkers in the mainstream Western philosophical tradition and his particular take on Derridas project, involving as it does a more nuanced and delicate negotiation of the dierences between them. At one level this has to do mainly with the question of political activism and with Derridas (as Badiou sees it) very marked disinclination to advance from the stage of intensive engagement with complications in the texts of Western logocentric tradition to the stage of engagement with issues of direct or urgent political concern. At anotherthough closely related to thatit has to do with Badious ambivalent relation to just those practices of textual close-reading, surely epitomised by deconstruction, that oer what he sees as an all too handy pretext for evading or endlessly deferring issues of political commitment. One would not expect Badiou to single Derrida out for exemption from this particular line of attack. After all, the charge of political evasiveness has very often been laid at Derridas door by Marxists especially but also by thinkers of a broadly leftist or social-activist persuasion.7 Moreover, it would t readily enough with Badious emphatic opposition to the linguistic turn in its many and varied showings over the past century.8 These range from the Frege-Russell mode of analytic philosophy or its ordinary-language (e.g., Wittgensteinian or Austinian) variants to Heideggerian hermeneutics, poststructuralism, Richard Rortys strong descriptivist brand of neo-pragmatism, Foucaults archaeologies or genealogies of discourse, and postmodernism as theorisedwith snippety reference to most of the aboveby a thinker like Lyotard.9 For Badiou, what marks them all out (though some more
7 See especially Michael Sprinker (ed.), Ghostly Demarcations: a symposium on Jacques Derridas Spectres of Marx (London: Verso, 1999).

For his most forceful statement of this view, see Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999).
8 9 For further discussion of these and allied developments, see Christopher Norris, The Truth About Postmodernism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993) and On Truth and Meaning: language, logic and the grounds of belief (London: Continuum, 2006).


Speculations III than others) as involving a sheer dereliction of philosophys proper role is their way of falling back on an appeal to language, discourse, or representation as the ultimate horizon of intelligibility or the end-point of ontological enquiry. However, as I have said, he appears to exempt Derrida from the general charge and to do so for reasons closely connected with his own project. Although these emerge plain to view only in the Pocket Pantheon essayafter what must seem a remarkably long period of abstention from anything like a serious or sustained engagement with Derridathey are likely to possess a revelatory force for suitably attuned readers, and moreover to strike them as casting a powerful retrospective light on crucial aspects of Badious work. At any rate he does his utmost to deect that blanket charge of Derridas having raised subtleties of verbal exegesis to a high point of textualist mystication which in turn provides a standing excuse for the avoidance of any denite, i.e., any nondeconstrucible commitment in matters of politics. Nor does he subscribe to the other, more specic version of it which holds that the deconstructionist obsession with logical-rhetorical gures like aporia, paradox, undecidability, and so forth, is just what might be expected of a movement so determined to block any process of constructive or problem-solving thought andbeyond thatany prospect of its application to the sorts of problem confronted by theoretically minded political activists. If indeed there is a certain unwillingness to lay that commitment on the line then this should rather be attributed, as Badiou says in the passage already cited in my Introduction, to the kind of diagonal obstinacy that typies Derridas thought, along with his clearly evinced dislike of abrupt metaphysically derived divisions and the fact that his way of brooding productively on ne points of textual interpretation gives rise to a mindset clearly not suited to stormy times when everything comes under the law of decisiveness, here and now.10 Of course these phrases carry more than a hint of irony, coming as they do from

Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 138.


Christopher Norris Diagonals one who has unceasingly upheld the good old cause of May 1968 along with the undying political signicance of other failed or abortive revolutions such as (pre-eminently) the 1871 Paris Commune, and addressed as they are to a thinker whose revolutionary commitments were, to say the least, a great deal more guarded and circumspect.11 Still the irony is by no means so heavy or censorious as to cancel what is clearly Badious genuine appreciation of a thinker whose intellectual temperament, though very dierent from his own, nevertheless has a fair claim to represent one possible way that a radical intelligence might come to terms with the conicting pressures of its own time and place. One should also note, in that phrase diagonal obstinacy, a more than casual allusion to the role of set-theoretical concepts in Badious re-thinking of the relationship between being and event, i.e., the Cantor-derived technique of diagonalisation as that which enables thought to conceive and then work with multiple orders or sizes of innity.12 I shall have more to say in this connection at a later stage but will here just remark on its singular eect when drawn into a discussion of Derridas work in relation to politics, on the one hand, and to mathematics, logic and the formal sciences on the other. Thus it opens the way for Badiou to enlist Derrida as having arrived at something closely analogous to the formal procedure that Badiou sets out in Being and Event and elsewhere, albeit a procedure (that of deconstruction) that makes no explicit appeal to set-theoretical concepts and which operates more through the close-reading of philosophical and other texts. So we should, I think, take Badiou very much at his wordand not (or not merely) as conforming to the old
11 On this and associated themes, see especially Alain Badiou, Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker (London: Verso, 2005); Polemics, trans. Steve Corcoran (London: Verso, 2007); The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Polity Press, 2007).

Badiou, Being and Event; also Innite Thought: truth and the return to philosophy, trans. Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens (London: Continuum, 2003); Theoretical Writings, ed. and trans. Ray Brassier and Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2004).


Speculations III French custom of high-toned testamentary tributeswhen he declares that he will henceforth emulate Derridas famous punning neologism dirance (= dierence/deferral/deference) by likewise substituting an anomalous a for the correct letter e in the nal syllable of his own key-word inexistence.13 Just as dirance functions in Derridas texts as a signier of that which eludes any possibility of conceptual closure or univocal denition so inexistance will function in Badious texts as a pointedly apt designation of that which eludes the mathematical, scientic, or socio-political count-as-one. It is the term for whatever inexists or nds no place within some given situation or state of knowledge, whether through being denied any form of eective political representation (like the paperless North African immigrant workers in France) or through guring nowhere in the currently accredited tally of beliefs, propositions, or truth-claims.14 Thus, for Badiou, the wager of Derridas work, of his innite work, . . . is to inscribe the inexistent. If that word has acquired its deviant spelling by the end of Badious short essay then this is no mere linguistic jeu despritany more than with Derridas numerous inventive yet philosophically load-bearing neologismsbut a shift brought about strictly in consequence of certain precise and far-reaching analogies between their two projects. There is further evidence of this when the passage just cited brings together a markedly Derridean inscriptionalist or textual idiom with a thoroughly Badiouan appeal to the range of conceptual resources opened up by Cantors exemplary passage through and beyond the paradoxes of traditional thinking about the innite. Thus the reference to Derridas innite work of inscribing the inexistent is no idle compliment or piece of neatly turned phraseology but rather a precisely gauged evocation of the link between Badious set-theoretically inspired re-thinking of ontologi13 See Jacques Derrida, Dirance, in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 3-27. 14 For his full-scale philosophical treatment of this theme, see Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, trans. Alberto Toscano (London: Continuum, 2009).


Christopher Norris Diagonals cal issues and Derridas less formally explicit but, in their own way, just as rigorous deconstructive procedures. This is most likely why Badiou exempts Derrida from his otherwise sweeping condemnation of the linguistic turn in its sundry current guises as merely an update on old sophistical or cultural-relativist themes. What is crucially dierent about Derridas commentaries on canonical texts from Plato to Husserl is his relentless teasing-out of aporetic or contradictory chains of logical implication which can then be seen to pose a large problem to any orthodox or deist account.15 Such are those conicts that arise between the vouloir-dire of authorial intent and that which a text is logically constrained to signify when examined with a readiness to track certain discrepant details that challenge or subvert more conventional protocols of reading. The result may very well go against not only our best evidence of what the writer expressly, consciously or knowingly meant to say but also the weight of received exegetical wisdom as well as, very often, our intuitive sense of interpretative validity or truth. Hence the elusive yet marked anity between Derridas way with textshis patient deconstruction of oppositions as Badiou puts it, not without a certain muted ironyand Badious approach to the various thinkers (philosophers and poets) whose work he subjects to a form of immanent dialectical critique. Where they dier is chiey in Derridas far greater emphasis on textual close-reading or exegesis as the means to locate those tensions, aporias, or moments of undecidability when classical (bivalent or true/false) logic is forced up against its limits. In Badiou, the procedure is pursued to broadly similar endswith a view to exposing the covert implications, the suppressed premises or (in Derridas phrase) the unthought
15 For some classic examples, see Jacques Derrida, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserls Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973); Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri. C. Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974); Writing and Dierence, trans. Alan Bass (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (London: Athlone Press, 1981); Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).


Speculations III axiomatics of a dominant traditionbut more by way of conceptual analysis than through a sedulous attention to details of the text. II In this respect Badiou may be said to stand closer to Adorno, or negative dialectics in its rst-generation Frankfurt mode, than to any version of the well-nigh ubiquitous linguistic turn that has undeniably left a strong imprint on Derridas work.16 (Although Badiou is notably out of sympathy with Adorno as regards the latters critique of Wagnerian music-drama this is in a highly specic context of debate and scarcely indicative of any deeper-lying or principled opposition to that mode of thought.17) And yet, as emerges to striking (even moving) eect, Badiou is attracted not only by the rigour of Derridas work but alsowhat might seem at odds with thatby its quest for alternative, less sharply polarised terms of address or some means to shift argumentative ground from a downright clash of contradictory logics (within the text or amongst its commentators) to a space of ight, as Badiou describes it, beyond all those vexing antinomies.
You take, for example, the great metaphysical oppositions. We shall have to diagonalize them. Because restricting discursive space means leaving no massivity, no linear massivity. Binary oppositions cannot possibly locate the hors-lieu in any lieu. So, we will have to deconstruct them. We will have to cut across them. That is what deconstruction is. Deconstruction is, basically, the set of operations that can bring about a certain restriction of the space of ight, or of the space of the vanishing point.18


See especially Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton (New York: Seabury Press, 1973).

17 Alain Badiou, Five Lessons on Wagner, trans. Susan Spitzer (London: Verso, 2010); Theodor W. Adorno, In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Verso, 2005). 18

Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 136.


Christopher Norris Diagonals Restriction, that is, in so far as it places certain denite limits on the space for manoeuvre as concerns this or that particular text, or againmore preciselyon what should count as a warranted claim with regard to those specic complications of sense, reference and logic that result from a properly deconstructive reading. Hence the well-known passages (in Of Grammatology and elsewhere) that nd Derrida emphatically asserting the need to respect indications of authorial intent so far as possible while none the less remaining maximally alert to those symptoms of conceptual stress that signal the presence of a counter-logic at odds with the texts overt (intentional) purport.19 Indeed, as Badiou very pointedly remarks, it is just this Derridean preference for re-inscribing (that is, rst inverting then displacing) certain kinds of binary opposition that is most characteristic not only of deconstruction as a formal procedure or practice of textual close-reading but also of Derridas mode of address to political and ethical themes. So we should not take it as a cunning backhanderor a case of praising with faint damnswhen Badiou refers to Derridas having been kept apart from the truth of the red years between 1968 and 1976, and when he further explains that the truth in question spoke its name with the words: One divides into two.20 No doubt Badiou is here staking his own militant distance from any such conict-avoidance strategy, as well as signalling for those in the know that this political dierence goes along with an equally decisive dierence in terms of their respective commitments with regard to certain aspects of the relation between language, truth and logic. Of course it is not the case that these two utterly distinctive thinkers are at bottom saying the same thing, the one (Derrida) in linguistically oriented or textualist and the other (Badiou) in mathematically derived or formalist terms. Yet one should, I think, take Badiou at his word in the Pocket Pantheon essay when he allows that some thinkersthose, like Derrida, with

See especially Derrida, Of Grammatology, 157-8. Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 138.



Speculations III sucient exegetical as well as political patiencecan and should pursue the other, basically non-confrontational path. Moreover one can see how this way of thinking, or something very like it, played a role in the development of Badious ideas from the binary-dominated concepts and categories of Being and Event to the more nuanced, dierential understanding of the relationship between being and existence that typies Logics of Worlds.
When Derrida outlines the concept of dirance he wants to suggest a single term that can activate the being/existence distinction in its vanishing point. Derrida puts to ight what remains of a metaphysical opposition in the being/existence dierence in such a way that we can grasp dierence as such, in its act. And dirance in action is obviously that which stands at the vanishing point of any opposition between being and existent, that which cannot in any sense be reduced to the gure of that opposition. And then we have to examine the democracy/ totalitarianism opposition in the same way. Or the real impact of the Jew/Arab opposition on the Palestinian conict. When he takes a stance on the Jew/Arab opposition in the Palestinian conict, he once again deconstructs its duality.21

This makes it very clear how close are the links, as Badiou perceives them, on the one hand between Derridas early and his later (more overtly political) writings, and on the other between Derridas work as a whole and Badious critical ontologyhis conception of the being/event dialecticas it moved toward the more stratied or nuanced account laid out in Logics of Worlds. So we shouldnt too easily fall in with the idea that these two thinkers stand squarely apart as regards the single most divisive issue in present-day philosophy of language and logic. It is not just a matter of situating each of them at some point on a scale that runs from the language-rst proposition, i.e., that any critique of prevalent (logocentric) ideas must always take account of its own embededness in a certain

Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 137-8.


Christopher Norris Diagonals cultural-linguistic milieu or tradition, to the logicist claim that such critique has to start with a strenuous rejection of the turn toward language assupposedlythe ultimate limit or horizon of intelligibility. This is basically the same issue that divides continental thinkers of a strongly hermeneutic or language-centred orientation such as Heidegger and Gadamer from those, like Adorno or Habermas, who whatever their otherwise sharp dierences agree on the need for a critical approach that holds out against received ideas and their customary modes of expression. From the latter viewpoint it is a sine qua non of enlightened or progressive thought that it should always maintain the utmost vigilance with regard to those ingrained habits of belief that may always turn out to have been kept in place by the inertial force of communal usage or linguistically encoded prejudice. On this account the true dividing-line falls not, as the textbook story would have it, between (so-called) continental and (so-called) analytic philosophy but rather between those thinkers on either side who pretty much go along with the linguistic turn for all practical purposes and those others who reject it on philosophical, political, or ethical grounds.22 Nobody who has read Badious Manifesto for Philosophy or registered the impact of his forceful reections on the prevalence of latter-day sophistryespecially where inuenced by Wittgensteincould be in any doubt as regards his deep and principled aversion to this whole movement of thought. Worst of all, in his view, is the way that it precludes any substantive critique of existing beliefs, values, or truth-claims by declaring that such criticism has to make sense by the lights of some communal consensus or cultural life-form which would otherwise nd it unacceptable or downright unintelligible. One can therefore see why Badious readings of (among others) Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, and Heidegger proceed more directly through a critical engagement with the conceptual and argumentative structures
22 For further discussion see Christopher Norris, Minding the Gap: epistemology and philosophy of science in the two traditions (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000).


Speculations III of their thought and not, as in Derrida, through a practice of meticulous textual close-reading. Of course it is then open for any Derridean to ask how Badiou could possibly advance his strong-revisionist claimsfor instance, his subversion of the plenist ontology or the static and immobile concept of being endorsed by a thinkers from Parmenides to Spinozaunless through a rigorous textual analysis that locates and deconstructs those specic passages where the doctrine in question can be shown to encounter certain problems unresolvable on its own express terms.23 And indeed it is the case that Badiou arrives at his unsettling conclusions through some careful and detailed as well as critically acute and markedly heterodox readings. Still there is a dierence between, on the one hand, Derridean close-reading where the problems emerge in and through a process of direct engagement with the text and, on the other, Badious mode of dialectical critique which takes for granted the texts having been read with adequate attention to detail and which thuson the strength of that previous engagementpresumes the entitlement to argue its case at a certain level of abstraction from the kinds of exegetical detail required of an echt-deconstructive approach. One motivating factor here, as I have said, is Badious opposition to anythingany argument, theory, or school of thoughtthat goes along with the linguistic turn or the notion of language as an end-point of critical enquiry. This helps to explain his ambivalence toward Derridas work despite their both being centrally concerned to expose the symptomatic blind-spots, aporias, or conicts between manifest and latent sense which reveal the limits of a certain restrictive ontology (Badiou) or a certain logocentric metaphysics of presence (Derrida) whose liability to such disruptive eects is an index of its deeply ideological character. This kinship emerges with unmistakeable force if one compares, say, Badious strongly heterodox yet rigorously consequent readings of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, or Heidegger with Derridas no less strenu23

Badiou, Being and Event, 112-20.


Christopher Norris Diagonals ously argued deconstructive commentaries on those same thinkers.24 In Derrida it is chiey a matter of revealing the various deviant, non-classical, or paraconsistent logics that can be shown to inhabit their texts and produce those moments of undecidabilityaporias, in the strict sense of the termwhich call into question certain of the authors leading premises or presuppositions.25 If the modus operandi is that of textual close-reading then this should not be seen as consigning Derridas work to the realm of literary criticism or applied rhetoric but rather as oering the means to make that case with a high degree of demonstrative force and with reference to certain highly specic contexts of argument. In Badiou, it is a chiey a matter of showing how certain overt ontological commitmentsthose that endorse some version of a plenist or changeless, timeless, and wholly determinate ontologyare ssured by the need to introduce an anomalous term that implicitly concedes the problematical status of any such doctrine and its covert reliance on that which it has striven to keep o bounds. This is why Badiou devotes a large portion of his commentary in the early sections of Being and Event to a detailed rehearsal of the issue of the one and the many as raised to intensely thought-provoking though somewhat baed eect in Platos dialogue Parmenides.26 What emerges here is the conceptual impossibility of thinking an absolute plenitude of beingan absolute dominion of the one over the many, or of the timeless and unchanging over everything subject to time and changeand hence the need (so deeply repugnant to Platos idealist mind-set) to reckon with this in any workable theory of truth and knowledge.
24 25

Badiou, Being and Event; also entries for Derrida under Note 15, above.

See Graham Priest, Derrida and Self-Reference, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 72 (1994), 103-111 and Beyond the Limits of Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); also Christopher Norris, Derrida on Rousseau: deconstruction as philosophy of logic, in Language, Logic and Epistemology: a modal-realist approach (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004), 16-65.
26 Badiou, Being: Multiple and Void. Plato/Cantor, in Being and Event, 21-77; also The Subtraction of Truth, in Theoretical Writings, 95-160.


Speculations III Thus Badiou sees a strong proleptic link between Platos reections on that topic and the subsequent history of more or less bewildered attempts, on the part of philosophers and mathematicians, to get a grip on the concept of the innite as something more than a merely notional, virtual, or placeholder term.27 His reading of intellectual history is premised on the claim that what Cantor eventually achievedan operational grasp of the innite and its multiple sizes or cardinalitieswas there already as a readable subtext to the vexing antinomies of Platos dialogue and was then worked out through numerous episodes in the long history of subsequent attempts to resolve them. Only with Cantor did these dilemmas, supposedly endemic to any thinking about the innite, at last give way to a conception that would turn paradox into concept or transform what had so far been a cause of intellectual anxiety into a source of knowledge-transformative insights not only in mathematics but (so Badiou maintains) with respect to basic ontological questions across the whole range of scientic, social, and humanistic disciplines. What Cantors discovery made it possible to think was the concept (not merely the idea) that there existed multiple orders of the innitesuch as the innity of integers and even numbers, or integers and fractions thereof, or rational and real numbersand, moreover, that these could be reckoned with or subject to calculation in rigorous and perfectly intelligible ways. The eect was to open up a vast new region of transnite operations that David Hilbert famously described as a mathematicians paradise, and which nally laid to rest those deep misgivings about the topic that had typied the response of many thinkers from Plato and Aristotle down to Cantors more orthodox-minded contemporaries.28 So it was that his breakthrough soon gave rise to a whole range of powPlato, Parmenides, trans. Mary L Gill and Paul Ryan (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1966).
27 28 On the often heated debate around Cantors claims concerning the multiple sizes of innity and Hilberts enthusiastic endorsement, see especially Marcus Giaquinto, The Search for Certainty: a philosophical account of the foundations of mathematics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).


Christopher Norris Diagonals erful techniques for creating (or discovering, as mathematical realists would say) new possibilities of further extending the set-theoretical domain. Platos worry is conveyed in the dialogue through Socrates encounter with his senior and mentor Parmenides. It has to do with the way that reection on the innite tends to generate problems, dilemmas, aporias, or instances of limit-point paradox which pose a real threat to the kind of thinkingthe pursuit of a well-dened systematic structure for the conduct of rational enquirythat philosophers have typically espoused. The result of this encounter is to force Socrates and his admiring, ever-faithful, yet at this point discernibly independent-minded student and chronicler Plato into a sequence of hard-pressed dialectical manoeuvres on the theme of the one and the many that leads both thinkers, like many others after them, right up to and (arguably) just beyond the point of conceptual deadlock. Thus the dialogue, at least as Plato reconstructs it, brings Socrates out decidedly at odds with Parmenides doctrine that only the one can truly be said to exist while the multiple is merely a product of delusory phenomenal or sensuous experience. Instead it is seen to manifest an incipient grasp of the contrary truth according to which multiplicity precedes and outruns any limit arbitrarily placed upon it by this or that particular state of knowledge, ontological scheme, discursive regime, or appearance of consistency brought about by some local operation of the merely stipulative count-as-one. This the dialogue achieves despite and against Platos well-known predilection for the transcendent unifying power of that which participates in the abstract realm of the forms, or ideas, such as justice, beauty, and (ultimately) goodness. In short, [w]hat Plato is endeavouring to think here, in a magnicent, dense text, is evidently inconsistent multiplicity, which is to say, pure presentation, anterior to any one-eect, or to any structure.29 And again, in a pithy formulation by Badiou that very clearly credits Plato with a precocious (perhaps preconscious) attempt to make

Badiou, Being and Event, 33.


Speculations III sense of that thesis: in the absence of any being of the one, the multiple in-consists in the presentation of a multiple of multiples without any foundational stopping-point.30 In-consists is here used in the pointedly technical sense developed throughout Being and Event. What the neologism nicely and compactly denotes is that absolute precedence of the multiple over the oneor the inconsistent over the consistentwhich plays a central role in Badious thinking not only about mathematics but also on other topics central to his work, among them most importantly politics. This he conceives as elementally a matter of the count-as-one and its exclusionary eect when deployed to distinguish some socially dominant fraction of the populace as members in good standing and to marginalise or negate some other fraction (for instance, that of the sans papiers or economic migrants) as lacking such status.31 Nevertheless, just as Platos ocial (Parmenidean) doctrine of transcendental monism encountered resistance from certain inbuilt necessities of thoughta resistance that would nally give rise to Cantors conceptual breakthroughso likewise those oppressed or victimised minorities exert a counter-pressure at certain points in the existing body politic which at critical times may become the sites of protest, struggle, and (potentially) social transformation. Thus, in terms of the more-thananalogical relation that Badiou posits between set theory and politics, any such change is likeliest to start at evental sites where conditions exist for the emergence of an aberrant or uncounted multiple, that is, a collectivitysomething like Sartres group-in-fusionwith a shared interest in bringing it about.32 These are subject-multiples who belong but are not included, or owing to whose conspicuous absence from
30 31

Badiou, Being and Event, 33.

See Note 11, above.

32 Jean-Paul Sartre, A Critique of Dialectical Reason, Vol. 1, Theory of Practical Ensembles, trans. A. Sheridan-Smith (London: New Left Books, 1976) and Vol. 2, trans. Quintin Hoare (London: Verso, 2006); also Badiou, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), in Pocket Pantheon, 14-35.


Christopher Norris Diagonals the count-as-one the extant social structure can be known to inconsist, i.e., to harbour absences (defects of adequate representation or shortfalls of accountability) that call its legitimacy into question. This is all worked out with great precision and care for detail in Badious writings on the course of set-theoretical investigation after Cantor. It is expounded chiey with reference to the work of Paul Cohen who devised (or discovered) a formal means of explaining how certain as-yet unknowable or unprovable truths in mathematics might none the less be implicit through their absence from the present state of knowledge and the power of that absence to generate certain specic problems and aporias.33 Here again, as so often with Badiou, the Sartre comparisonfamously exemplied by Pierres absence from the cafis one that fairly leaps to mind.34 I hope that by now it will be clear what I am suggesting with regard to the relationship between Badiou and Derrida. There is no doubt that Badiou is the more overtly formal thinker, or the one whose work has drawn more heavily on developments in mathematics, logic, and the formal sciences. There is also no doubt that Derrida is the more language-oriented or textconscious thinker of the two, a dierence that might seem to set them apart on basic philosophical grounds. However, to repeat, this impression ought to be checked by considering the well-nigh ubiquitous character of the linguistic turn across numerous schools of post-1920 analytic and continental thought. One eect of thisfor thinkers not overly in hock to that typecast dichotomyhas been to question the very idea that an extreme sensitivity to linguistic nuance cannot go along with (must indeed be inimical to) an adequate power of conceptual grasp. Nor should it be forgotten, as so often it has by admiring and hostile commentators alike, that
33 Paul J. Cohen, Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis (New York: W.A. Benjamin, 1966). See also Michael Potter, Set Theory and Its Philosophy: a critical history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). 34 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel Barnes (London: Routledge, 2003), 9.


Speculations III Derrida more than once invokes formal arguments such as Gdels undecidability-theorem in order to explain what is involved in the deconstructive reading of a text.35 This is not just a vaguely analogical or downright opportunist appeal to the presumed authority of mathematics and logic but a reference-point that precisely captures the movementthe logico-syntactic-semantic procedureof Derridas classic readings. III My point is that Derridas meditations on the logics of the pharmakon in Plato, of supplementarity in Rousseau, of parergonality in Kant, or of dirance in Husserl along with his later, more generic reections on the aporetic logics of the gift, hospitality, and auto-immunity are all of them essentially formal despite (or more accurately just on account of) their often starting out from some localised evidence of textual complication.36 That is, they have to do with the scope and limits of classical (bivalent) logicits coming up against strictly unresolvable instances of self-contradiction or aporiaand are therefore dependent on textual exegesis only though crucially in order to present this case with the maximum degree of evidential warrant and demonstrative (logical) rigour. Indeed, one could plausibly interpret the development of Derridas thought over ve decades of intense activity as a
35 See Note 27, above; also Paul Livingston, Derrida and Formal Logic: formalizing the undecidable, Derrida Today, Vol. 3, No. 2 (2010), 221-39 and Norris, Deconstruction, Science and the Logic of Enquiry, 178-200. 36 See entries under Note 15, above, and Jacques Derrida, The Parergon, in The Truth in Painting, trans. Geo Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 15-147; alsofor the more obviously topical turn in his later workJacques Derrida, Of Hospitality, trans. Rachel Bowlby (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000); On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes (London: Routledge, 2001); Rogues: two essays on reason, trans Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas (Stanford U.P., 2005); Beast and the Sovereign, Vol. 1, ed. Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Ginette Michaud, trans. G. Bennington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).


Christopher Norris Diagonals shift of focus from textual close-reading as the sine qua non of interpretative truth or validity to a somewhat more generalised or less context-specic mode of conceptual analysis. I have ventured this claim in somewhat cautious and tentative style because it is misleading in one respect at least, namely its failure to acknowledge the wider (referential or real-world) contexts to which those later writings are very specically addressed and to which they often respond in strongly marked ethico-political terms.37 Here again, as with the (putative) issue concerning formal versus textualist modes of thought, if one takes due account of this dimensionalways present in Derridas work but latterly more overt and emphaticthere will seem fewer problems about nding signicant points of contact between that work and various aspects of Badious project. It will then become clearer that their thinking converges on certain shared objectives, among them the concern to articulate a formally adequate account of the contradictions that they both nd implicit across a great range of discourses, concepts, institutions, socio-political orders, and practices. Moreover, they can then be seen as holding the shared belief that those contradictions have their locus of emergence only in the various specic contextsfrom mathematics, logic and the physical sciences to politics, ethics, and artwhere thinkers and practitioners must henceforth discover the relevant validity-conditions as well as an anticipatory grasp of what would truthfully count as an advance on the present state of knowledge or current ideas of justicatory warrant. All this was implicit in the well-known aphorism of Roland Barthes when he sought some common ground between structuralists and their Marxist or socialist-realist opponents by remarking that a little formalism turns one away from history, but a lot brings one back to it.38 What I think he had more specically in mindand what bears directly on our current
37 See Notes 2 and 38, above; also Cathy Caruth and Deborah Esch (eds.), Critical Encounters: reference and responsibility in deconstructive writing (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1995). 38 Roland Barthes, Myth Today, in Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers (London: Granada, 1973), 112.


Speculations III discussionis the dierence between a wholesale version of the linguistic turn (whether post-structuralist, Wittgensteinian, late-Heideggerian, or Rortian neo-pragmatist) and a version that concedes the centrality of language to human thought and cognition yet also acknowledges the constraints imposed by logic on the one hand and referential ties or commitments on the other. Thus a formalist approach is one that preserves at least this much of the classical trivium model with its three major disciplines of logic, grammar, and rhetoric. The model was devised so as to allow rhetoric its appointed place as the study of language in its suasive or performative aspect but always within the order of priority laid down by a due regard for logic and, next to that, for grammar as the structural component of language that serves to articulate its proper relation to the correspondent structures of truth, fact, or veridical knowledge and experience. It was subject to drastic revision through various programmes of reform from Ramus down, and is nowadays either consigned to the intellectual history-books or resurrected by boa-deconstructors like Paul de Man in order to advance a radically extended conception of rhetoric that would claim to undosubvert or underminethe priority of logic and grammar.39 Whatever ones assessment of de Mans somewhat wiredrawn arguments to this eect it is clear that the trivium conception suers from an overly literal understanding of the correspondence-relation between logic, language and reality and a failure to conceive how that relation might be subject to disturbance by factors beyond the remit of logical or grammatical analysis. Still it is the model that looms over Wittgensteins early Tractarian account of these matters, and alsoof coursethe model that he roundly rejected in the Philosophical Investigations and other late-period writings.40
For further discussion (albeit from a decidedly idiosyncratic angle) see Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986); also Christopher Norris, Paul de Man and the Critique of Aesthetic Ideology (New York: Routledge, 1988).
39 40

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. David Pears and Brian McGuiness (London: Routledge, 1961) and Philosophical Investigations,


Christopher Norris Diagonals Wittgensteins was the most extremearguably the most nave and literal-mindedof those doctrines that typied analytic philosophy in its early, predominantly logicist period. His subsequent turnaround was likewise the most extreme of those sundry reactive movements of thought which swung right across to a notion of language (language-games, discourses, phrase-regimes, descriptive paradigms, worldviews, conceptual schemes, etc.) as the furthest we can get toward a better understanding of the relation between thought and world.41 It is in this context that Badiou and Derrida can be seen to hold out against the limiting conditions imposed on philosophy by a cyclic swinging back and forth between opposite and equally disabling doctrinal poles. Both thinkers maintain a steady commitment to standards of logical consistency and analytic-conceptual rigour along with an acute critical awareness of the ways in which certain problematic or anomalous instancesevents for Badiou, aporias or moments of undecidability for Derridamay on occasion require a suspension and consequent redenition of those same standards. Badiou focuses on the eect of some crucial intervention in mathematics, science, politics, or art which establishes a novel truth-procedure whose longer-term consequences are then worked out by militants of truthor those with the requisite degree of post-evental delityand brought to the point where there occurs a decisive transformation in the existing order of knowledge, society, or artistic expression. Derrida is more apt to describe such events in textual terms, that is to say, as likewise transformative occurrences but of the sort best exemplied by what happens when a deconstructive reading of (say) Plato, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Husserl or Heidegger controverts not only the received understanding of those thinkers but also its bearing on issues in the sphere of general and regional ontology. Indeed there
trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1954).

See entries under Note 9, above, for more extended analysis and critique of these various (as I see them) closely related developments.


Speculations III are some major misconceptions about Derrida that might be dispelled by noting the salient points of convergence between his project and Badious more explicitly ontological approach to the ongoing dialectic of being and event. One is the old canard, still much bandied about amongst Derridas detractors, that in making his notorious claim to the eect that there is nothing outside the text (il ny a pas de horstexte; better rendered there is no outside to the text) he should be taken to espouse a textualist variant of absolute or transcendental idealism according to which, quite literally, written marks on the page are all that can be known to exist.42 Another is the notion often advanced by critics on the left that when Derrida claims to deconstruct the Western logocentric metaphysics of presence from Plato to Heidegger he must have in mind some timeless and seamless structure of false consciousnessor mode of self-perpetuating error and delusionthat has remained perfectly unaected by even the most radical interim changes of socio-political life.43 My comparison with Badiou may help to make the contrary point, i.e., that each of those textual engagements raises a historically specic range of issues which in turn have to do with a particular form of ideological misrecognition or a distinct, politically inected way that the logocentric prejudice has taken hold under given material and cultural conditions. In short the main task of critical reading, as Derrida conceives it, is precisely to articulate those fault-lines in the structure of metaphysical presupposition that are normally concealed by our placid assurance of knowing our way around language and the world but which show up to most striking eect when placed under deconstructive scrutiny. Nor should this for one moment be taken to suggest that Derrida is proposing linguistic therapy in the Wittgensteinian mode, i.e., seeking to talk us down from the giddy heights of metaphysical abstraction and restore us to a communally
42 43

Derrida, Of Grammatology, 158; also Note 38, above.

See Note 7, above.


Christopher Norris Diagonals sanctioned sense of what constitutes apt or proper usage.44 One additional benet of viewing his work in relation to Badious is that it shows just how far they share a decidedly anti-Wittgensteinian emphasis on the power of critical thought to question, challenge, unsettle and subvert the complacent habits of belief typically enshrined in (so-called) ordinary language. This in turn allows both thinkers to locate a certain very specic role for the subjectthe human subject of choice, agency, knowledge, and commitment albeit here dened in terms far removed from those of traditional humanismas that which alone brings about the possibility of any such critical advance. Such is Badious concept of the subject as itself brought about or summoned into being through its faithful adherence to a truth-procedure in the wake of some particular breakthrough event in mathematics, the sciences, politics, or art.45 Beyond that, it suggests perhaps the most promising solution to those long-running and by now somewhat deadend debates over whether or not Derridean deconstruction goes so far in its (supposed) rejection of all such (supposed) humanist residues as to leave no room for the subject as locus of truth-seeking and activist engagement.46 That is to say, it gets over the false antinomyone very pointedly deconstructed in Derridas early writings on Husserlbetween truth as a matter of absolute ideal objectivity and truth as that which has to be conceived as discovered or at any rate discoverable by human enquirers at a certain stage of intellectual advance, political progress, or artistic achievement.47
44 45

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations.

See especially Alain Badiou, Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels (London: Continuum, 2009) and Bruno Bosteels, Badiou and Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).


See for instance Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy (eds.), Who Comes After the Subject? (London: Routledge, 1991).

See especially Derrida, Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserls Theory of Signs (Note 15, above); also Edmund Husserls Origin of Geometry: an introduction, trans. John P. Leavey (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1978) and Genesis and Structure and Phenomenology, in Writing and Dif47


Speculations III This is I think the key to resolving what would otherwise constitute an insuperable problem for any attempt to nd common ground between Badious insistence on mathematics as ontology, i.e., as that which always potentially exceeds the compass of human epistemic grasp and Derridas undoubted starting-point in the project of Husserlian phenomenology, no matter how deep and far-reaching his critique of its basic suppositions. It is here that both thinkers stake their claim to have moved decisively beyond the whole range of typecast dilemmasultimately those between subject and object, mind and world, or truth within the bounds of human cognition and truth as recognitionor verication-transcendentthat have vexed the discourse of Western philosophy since its ancient Greek origins, and all the more so in the wake of Kants self-professed Copernican Revolution.48 Hence Badious highly qualied version of mathematical Platonism, one that unlike the classical (and inherently dilemma-prone) version makes due allowance for the truth-revealing powers of actively engaged exploratory thought. Hence also, in a different register, Derridas meticulous analysis of the constant alternating movement in Husserl between a transcendental phenomenology premised on the existence of absolute ideal objectivities and a more historically grounded and lifeworldoriented approach that instead takes account of the various temporal factors that can now be seen to have impinged on the process of discovery.49 It is in this way that a better understanding of Badious claims with regard to mathematics, ontology and truth can help toward a bettersince again less dilemma-pronegrasp of how subjectivity gures in Derridas readings of Husserl and other thinkers. As we have seen, Badiou oers numerous examples of the process or procedure whereby some given state of knowledge,
ference, trans. Alan Bass (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), 154-68, 160.

On the dubious warrant for Kants claims in this regard, see Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: an essay on the necessity of contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008); also Norris, Re-Thinking the Cogito: naturalism, reason and the venture of thought (Continuum, 2009). See entries under Note 49, above.



Christopher Norris Diagonals political situation, or stage of artistic advancealong with the ontology that underwrites itis thrown into doubt or forced to the point of crisis and transformation through various strictly consequent though strictly unforeseeable turns in the logic of events. Indeed that phrase, logic of events, is one that neatly encapsulates the nature of this process as Badiou describes it, since the logic (or intelligible sequence of developments) emerges fully formed only after the event yet with no less a sense of rigorous necessity given the new advance in knowledge, the new access to political power on the part of a hitherto oppressed group, or the new possibilities of expression opened up by some breakthrough artistic achievement. In mathematical termsalways his ultimate point of referenceit involves that quintessentially set-theoretical operation of turning paradox into concept, or nding the resources for a radical re-thinking of some presently insoluble problem which then becomes the springboard for a full-scale conceptual revolution. Such were prototypically the advances achieved by Cantor with his grasp of the multiple orders of innity and by Cohen with his account of forcing as that which made possible all such advances, itself included.50 If one asks what relevance this might have to Derridas (on the face of it) very dierent body of work then the answer has to with that jointly logical and referential dimension which, as I have argued, sets it decidedly apart from most developments in sceptically-inclined philosophy of language or critical theory over the past half-century. Thus Derridean deconstruction, as distinct from its various spin-os or derivatives, necessarily maintains a due respect for those axioms or precepts of classical logic (such as bivalence and excluded middle) that have to be applied right up to the limitthe point where they encounter some instance of strictly irresolvable aporiaif such reading is to muster any kind of demonstrative force. The same goes for those basic referential constraints on language that are built into its very nature as a mode of informative-communicative discourse

See Notes 28, 30 and 35 above.


Speculations III and which Derrida doesnt for one moment deny even though he shows how they are subject to certain complicating factors when approached with a suciently nuanced sense of their involvement in larger chains of contextual and logicosemantic entailment. Moreover the two considerations are closely intertwined since, as can be seen from debates on the topic from Frege down, there is simply no separating issues of reference from issues of truth, issues of truth from issues of (Fregean) sense, and these in turn from issues concerning the logical structure of the sentences, propositions, or other such larger units of discourse within which alone terms can properly be said to refer or to possess a determinate (referentially warranted) truth-value.51 Of course that set of claims has been subject to much debate, with someQuine among themcriticising Frege on radically holistic grounds for not having pressed right through with the contextualist argument and extended it beyond the sentence to the entire web or fabric of discourse (or currently accredited knowledge) at any given time.52 However this contention has been challenged in turn by those, like Michael Dummett, who object that we could never get a purchase on languagenever learn to use it in the rst place or manifest a grasp of its working principlesunless (contra Quine) we had a prior grasp of its compositional structure, i.e., the dependence of language-as-awhole on those sentential structures that dene the conditions of assertoric warrant for this or that statement or truth-claim.53 Quite simply, we should then be at a loss to understand the most basic elements of linguistic intelligibility or to gure out other peoples meanings, intentions, or communicative gist on the basis of a rationally informed conjecture as to the sense (and the truth-conditions) that they are likeliest to have

For further discussion see Norris, Language, Logic and Epistemology.

See especially W.V. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969) and Two Dogmas of Empiricism, in From a Logical Point of View, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 20-46.
52 53 Michael Dummett, Frege and Other Philosophers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).


Christopher Norris Diagonals in mind for their discourse from one sentence to the next. What most needs stressing against the common currency of pro- and anti-Derrida commentaries alike is that Dummetts argument is fully borne out in the case of those classical deconstructive readings that constitute the heart of Derridas project. To be sure there are passages, much cited in the secondary literature, where he does give every appearance of endorsing a wholesale contextualist position la Quine. On this account it must be the aim of such readings to subvert or undermine every last appeal to the transcendental signied, whether this be conceived in idealist terms as the ultimate reality behind sensory-phenomenal appearances orin realist termsas the referential point of anchorage between language and reality or word and world. However it will soon strike any attentive reader that when Derrida writes about the logic of the pharmakon in Plato, or supplementarity in Rousseau, or the parergon in Kant, or dirance in Husserl (etc.) he is certainly out to discredit the former (idealist) conception but by no means seeking to undermine the very notions of truth and reference. Indeed, if one wanted to characterise deconstruction in philosophical (as distinct from literary-theoretical or cultural-critical) terms then its specic dierentia would lie precisely in the tensionor the constant possibility of conictbetween an adherence to those classical values and the kinds of anomalous or discrepant evidence that may be encountered in the course of a suciently intelligent, sensitive, and rigorous deconstructive reading. My point, to repeat, is that Derrida shares with Badiou this desire not only to detect and locate but, so far as possible, to analyse and formalise whatever creates such an obstacle or challenge to existing modes of belief. More than that, it gives rise to a truth-procedure that may for some timelike Cantors proposalscome up against strong doxastic or institutional resistance, but which thereafter acts as a periodic spur to the activity of thought by which paradox is turned into concept.


Speculations III IV I would therefore suggest that Derridas protocols of reading, early and late, can best be understood as closely analogous to those transformative events that Badiou describes across a range of disciplines, domains or practices from mathematics to politics and which nd their most rigorous formal specication in the set-theoretical procedure of forcing developed in the work of Cohen. Thus when Badiou oers his againstthe-grain readings of canonical philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, or Heidegger it is through a formal procedurenot merely an interpretative optiondevised in order to explain how set-theoretical theorems or conjectures can be truth-tracking or sensitive to future discovery even though they exceed the utmost compass of current provability or present-best knowledge. That is to say, those thinkers can be held to have thought truer than they knew just on condition (1) that their texts are read with sucient care, and (2) that this care is directed more toward structures of conictual logico-semantic implication than toward whatever the author may have declared with regard to their express, conscious, programmatic, or manifest purport. For Derrida likewise, as explained in a famous passage from Of Grammatology, it is a matter of bringing out the often complex and contradictory relationship between that which an author knows or acknowledges concerning his/her writerly intentions and that which eludes their grasp precisely on account of its resisting or subverting any straightforward intentionalist approach. This point is worth more detailed treatment since it has often been ignored or subject to misunderstanding among a sizeable number of Derridas commentators. On the one hand, he declares, it is vital to take stock of an authors manifest intent since [w]ithout this recognition and this respect, critical production would risk developing in any direction at all and authorize itself to say almost anything.54 Neverthelessthe point of departure for a deconstructive reading

Derrida, Of Grammatology, 158.


Christopher Norris Diagonals this indispensable guardrail has always only protected, it has never opened a reading. To suppose otherwise would be to conne criticism or philosophy to the subaltern and wholly uncritical task of reproducing, by the eaced and respectful doubling of commentary, the conscious, voluntary, intentional relationship that the writer institutes in his exchanges with the history to which he belongs thanks to the element of language.55 What deconstruction seeks to reveal, conversely, is a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of the language that he uses. And againas should be emphasised in view of its distorted reception-history to datedeconstruction in the proper sense of that term, i.e., as exemplied by Derridas classic essays must involve not only a keen awareness of these intra-linguistic complications but also a strong analytical grasp of the logical or logicosemantic structures that are thereby subject to a dislocating torsion beyond their power to contain or control. After all, this could be the caseor register as suchonly on condition that the reader is able and willing to apply the most rigorous standards of logical accountability (including the axioms of classical or bivalent true/false reasoning) and thereby locate those moments of aporia or logico-semantic breakdown that signal the limits of any such reckoning. Hence Derridas doubtless mischievous but by no means disingenuous expression of outrage when John Searle upbraids him for thinking to deconstruct Austins categorical distinctionse.g., between proper and improper speech-acts, or apt and non-apt contexts, or good-faith and insincere, deceptive, or imitation speech-actsby applying a strict bivalent logic that is simply out of place (Searle claims) in the context of everyday, ordinary, non-regimented linguistic usage.56 The passage is worth quoting at length since it goes clean againstand helps to discreditsuch a range of prejudicial ideas on the topic of Derridean deconstruction. Thus:

Derrida, Of Grammatology, 158. Ibid., 158.



Speculations III
[f]rom the moment that Searle entrusts himself to an oppositional logic, to the distinction of concepts by contrast or opposition (a legitimate demand that I share with him, even if I do not at all elicit the same consequences from it), I have diculty seeing how he is nevertheless able to write [that] phrase . . . in which he credits me with the assumption, oddly enough derived from logical positivism, that unless a distinction can be made rigorous and precise, it is not really a distinction at all.57

Derridas point is not so much to cock a snook at logical positivism but rather to bring home the unwitting irony of Searles setting up as the appointed guardian of analytic values and priorities while blithely recommending that they be relaxed, suspended, or held in abeyance whenever (as in the context of speech-act theory) they encounter problems or anomalous instances. Here again he agrees with Badiou that thought can make progresswhether in mathematics, the physical sciences, politics, art, or ethicsonly so long as it persists in the eort to work its way through and beyond those dilemmas that periodically emerge in the course of enquiry and can later be seen to have supplied the stimulus to some otherwise (quite literally) unthinkable stage of advance. There is no direct equivalent in Derrida to the settheoretical procedure of forcing as formalized by Cohen and extended by Badiou to elds that would normally be seen as altogether resistant to any such approach. Nevertheless, as I have said, there is a more than suggestive analogy between Badious meticulous working-out of that procedure in its various contexts of application through a stage-by-stage sequence of mathematically-based demonstrative reasoning and Derridas likewise meticulous attention to those deviant or non-classical logicsof supplementarity, dirance,
Jacques Derrida, Afterword: toward an ethic of conversation, in Gerald Gra (ed.), Limited Inc (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1989), 111-54, 123. For the background to this rejoinder see also Derrida, Signature Event Context, Glyph, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 172-97; John R. Searle, Reiterating the Dierences, ibid, 198-208; Derrida, Limited Inc abc, Glyph, Vol. 2 (1977), 75-176.


Christopher Norris Diagonals parergonality, autoimmunity, and so forthwhich he nds at work in the texts of a culture that has consistently striven to conceal or eace them. Moreover, the analogy is greatly strengthened by his telling invocations of Gdels incompleteness-theorem at just those cardinal pointsnotably in his treatment of Mallarms paradoxical reections on language, logic, reference, and truthwhere deconstruction is most deeply engaged in exposing the extent of that same concealment.58 In Badious essay of tribute to Derrida he elects to pass over the Gdelian connection and to focus instead on the link with Cantors technique of diagonalization, that is, his proof that there exist innite sets (like that of the real numbers) that cannot be placed in a one-for-one order of correspondence with the innite set of integers or natural numbers, just as the power-set of any given set (the set of all its subsets) must always numerically and exponentially exceed the set itself. However that technique was taken over and put to various other mathematical and logical purposes, among them most notably Gdels incompleteness theorem.59 At any rate these various connections help to explain not only Badious (as it might seem) curious take on Derrida in the Pocket Pantheon piece but also the development in his thinkingsome would say the outright transformationbetween the two mastertexts Being and Event and Logics of Worlds. After all, it is in the latter that Badiou oers his full-scale exposition of the themes that dominate his later work and which also nd cryptic though eloquent expression in the tribute to Derrida. Chief among them are the ideas of existence (as distinct from being), inexistence (with its proximate source in the subtractive ontology of Being and Event), degrees of existence (these
58 See Note 37, above; also Derrida, The Double Session, in Dissemination, 173-286. 59 Kurt Gdel, On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems, trans. B. Meltzer (New York: Basic Books, 1962); see also Ernest Nagel and James Newman, Gdels Theorem (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971) and S.G. Shanker (ed.), Gdels Theorem in Focus (London: Routledge, 1987).


Speculations III taken to vary for any given being or entity across dierent worlds), and the likewise diering transcendentals that exert their existence-bestowing eect on or in each of those worlds. Given a multiplicity that exists in a world, there will always be an element in that multiplicity that is a non-existent in that world. A non-existent cannot be characterised in ontological terms, but only in existential terms; it is a minimal degree of existence in any determinate world.60 To be sure, this conception has its ultimate source in the set-theoretical terms and procedures laid out in Being and Event. But they have now undergone a major shift of emphasis with the turn to a scalar (dierential) account of the way that existence supervenes on being, or the process by which certain beings make the passage from existing only in that minimal degree to existing in a world that allows full scope to their diverse powers of thought, imagination, scientic inventiveness, political activism, or artistic creativity. It is here that Badiou locates the point of convergence between his own and Derridas work, i.e., in the latters kindred desire to articulate those various kinds and degrees of inexistence that mark the subordinate term of any binary pair, or whatever nds itself excluded or marginalised by prevalent social, political, cultural, or conceptual structures. The greatest error, according to Derrida as Badiou reads him, is to confuse the order of being with that of existence, andby the same tokento confuse inexistence with nothingness. This leads to the wholly mistaken presumption that there is no need to reckon with multiples (e.g. ethnic, social or political groups) that occupy a world wherein their existence is restricted to a bare minimum by a transcendental that rules against their enjoying a more active or eective mode of involvement. Thus any multiplicity is assigned a degree of existence in the world, a degree of appearance. The fact of existing, qua appearing in a determinate world, is inevitably associated with a certain degree of appearance in that world, with an intensity of appearance, which we can also call intensity of
Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 130.



Christopher Norris Diagonals existence.61 Hence Badious recognition of Derrida as having raised this topic to a high point of critical visibility despite doing so in a textualist register that he (Badiou) clearly nds less than appealing. Indeed, within the short compass of this Pocket Pantheon text he manages to link up the major concerns of early and late Derrida with a force of logical (as opposed to merely suggestive or associative) argument that has so far eluded most of Derridas commentators. In particular, he brings out the marked though elusive continuity between a mode of deconstruction primarily focused on issues of textual exegesis (albeit with large epistemological and ontological implications) and a mode of deconstruction that engages more directly with real-world problems and dilemmas. Badiou oers a way of reading Derrida that has no problem in negotiating the passage from texts like Of Grammatology, Margins of Philosophy or Writing and Dierence to later works where his approach is for the most part conceptual-thematic and therefore, as I have said, takes the work of textual closereading very largely for granted. Most striking here is Badious brief but pregnant commentary on Derridas Spectres of Marx, a text that many critics have found brilliantly inventive, passionate, and ethically stirring yet oddly devoid of substantive political or theoretical content.62 Derridas refusal to meet those demandsto deliver some programme, formula, or theory that might be cashed out in the presentis itself a sure mark of the desire to make room for that which currently lacks any adequate means of representation, or any acknowledged right to exist (in Badious distinctive sense of that term) under currently prevailing cultural, political, or socio-economic conditions. Badious reading does much to redeem Spectres from the charge brought against it by leftactivist detractors who deplore what they see as its merely gestural Marxist commitment and failure to achieve any real depth of political or philosophic thought.63 On the other

Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 128. Derrida, Spectres of Marx (Note 2, above). See Note 7, above.

62 63


Speculations III hand his reading strikes a cautionary note for those Derridean adepts overly enthused by the notion of hauntology, that is, the idea that Marxism ought to embrace a spectral conception of political justice which accepts its endless deferral to a future of indenite or unspeciable since ontologically fugitive possibility. Although Derrida works this conception out with his usual inventive brillianceand, be it said, with a charge of ethico-political passion undiminished by the books highly speculative characterthere is no doubt that it can easily serve, for others more impressed by the brilliance than inspired by the passion, as a pretext for the failure or refusal to engage with practical issues in the world outside the text. Thus to read Marx through Derrida, or with an eye to those aspects of Derridas Marx so adroitly drawn out by Badiou, is to see how and why these (seemingly) opposite responses both fall short of an adequate reckoning. Let me quote the most relevant passage at length since it makes this point with the inseparable mixture of passion and precision that typies all three thinkers.
In Marxs analysis of bourgeois or capitalist societies, the proletariat is truly the non-existent characteristic of political multiplicities. It is that which does not exist. That does not mean that it has no being . . . . The social and economic being of the proletariat is not in doubt. What is in doubt, always has been, and is now so more than ever, is its political existence. The proletariat is that which has been completely removed from political representation. The multiplicity that it is can be analysed but, if we take the rules of appearance in the political world, it does not appear there . . . . That is obviously what the Internationale sings: We are nothing, let us be all. . . . From the point of view of their political appearance, they are nothing. And becoming all presupposes a change of world, or in other words a change of transcendental. The transcendental must change if the ascription of an existence, and therefore a non-existence or the point of a multiplicitys non-appearance in a world, is to change in its turn.64


Badiou, Pocket Pantheon, 130-31.


Christopher Norris Diagonals This is clearly a creative or revisionist reading of Spectres in so far as it attributes to Derrida words, phrases, concepts, ontological concerns, and certain technical (mainly mathematical) thought-procedures that are not to be found in Derridas work, at least on the literal face of it. However it can fairly be said to respect what Derrida calls the classical exigencies of interpretation, that is, the conditions incumbent upon any reading that wishes to avoid the familiar chargeone often brought against Derrida himself although, I would argue, without adequate warrantof treating the text in hand as merely a pretext for some ingenious display of self-willed strong misprision. Those conditions include (though it might surprise some of Derridas literary disciples) an attitude of qualied regard for the claims of authorial intent and alsowhat entails that qualicationa demand that texts be read with the utmost attentiveness to their complex and sometimes contradictory structures of logical implication. Such is the requirement even, or especially, where this leads up to an aporetic juncture or moment of strictly unresolvable impasse so that the logical necessity arises to deploy a non-classical, i.e., a deviant, paraconsistent, non-bivalent, or (in Derridas parlance) a supplementary logic.65 However, crucially, this is not the kind of readiness to switch or revise logics at the drop of a speculative hat that has characterised a good deal of Anglo-American analytical discussion in the wake of Quines Two Dogmas of Empiricism and Hilary Putnams kindred reections.66 Rather it is revisionism only under pressure, that is, as the upshot of a logically meticulous reading that must be undertaken if deconstruction is not to take refuge in irrationality or evenas with certain of its US literary variantsin some specially (often theologically) sanctioned realm of supra-rational ambiguity or paradox.67

See Notes 27 and 37, above.

For classic statements of the strong logical-revisionist case, see Willard Van Orman Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, and Hilary Putnam, Mathematics, Matter and Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975); also Christopher Norris, Hilary Putnam: realism, reason and the uses of uncertainty (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002).
66 67

See for instance Mark C, Taylor, Erring: a postmodern a/theology (Chicago:


Speculations III V This is the aspect of Derridas work that has made the greatest impression on Badiou, as witness his striking re-assessment of Spectres of Marx. Above all, it oers a needful corrective to the widespread ideaone that Badiou, given his antipathy toward the linguistic turn in its sundry manifestations, might well be expected to endorsethat Marxism after Derrida is a merely textual or rhetorical aair with no purchase on issues of real-world history and politics. What counts so strongly against that charge is Derridas sheer analytic acuity, a virtue that places him more in the company of an echt-analytical philosopher like Russell than exponents of the language-rst, conventionalist, social-constructivist, or communitarian outlook. Or again, it is Derridas temperamental as well as intellectual anity with a thinker like Austin who managed to combine a Wittgensteinian attentiveness to ordinary language with an undiminished power of analytic thought andowing to thata very un-Wittgensteinian precision of conceptual grasp as applied to the nest nuances of linguistic usage.68 Thus despite his ill fame amongst analytic philosophers as the ne plus ultra of textualist (i.e., post-structuralist, postmodernist, or more broadly continental) thinking, Derrida is much better understood as an immensely gifted close-reader of numerous philosophical texts who has alsoby way of that same close-reading activityput forward some remarkably original theses concerning the structural and historical genealogy of certain crucially load-bearing philosophical concepts. This is why Badiou can advance a speculative reading which itself goes beyond the letter of Derridas textbeyond any straight interpretationand yet nds adequate probative
University of Chicago Press, 1984) and John D. Caputo, Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: religion without religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); also Arthur Bradley, Derridas God: a genealogy of the theological turn, Paragraph, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2006), 21-42. For a powerful and timely antidote to such thinking, see Martin Hgglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the time of life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008).

See entries under Note 59, above.


Christopher Norris Diagonals warrant in aspects, features, or logical dimensions of that text that lack (and may even turn out to controvert) the supposed self-evidence of direct or express authorial intent. It is therefore a reading very much in line with Badious repeated demonstrations, both in and outside the set-theoretical context, of the way that thought typically achieves its most radical or world-transformative advances through a process either identical with or closely analogous to the formal operation of forcing as dened by Cohen. The truthprocedure set to work in this particular instance of Badious practice as a textual analyst-commentator is the same as that brought to bear in those passages of strong-revisionist yet closely reasoned and intensely critical commentary on philosophers from Plato to Heidegger that punctuate Being and Event. Such, to repeat, is the process of enquiry by which certain truths can be shown to have been latent within some earlier state of knowledge and yet, at the time in question, to have exceeded any currently available means of proof, discovery, or verication. This leaves Badiou atly opposed to the strain of logico-semantic-metaphysical anti-realism that was rst introduced to analytic philosophy of mathematics, logic and language by Michael Dummett and which denies on principle the objectivist (alethic realist) claim that truth might always exceed or transcend our best intellectual or cognitive powers.69 Indeed, it is on account of their shared resistance to this and other doctrines of epistemic, linguistic, or discursive constraintdoctrines which make truth coterminous with the scope and limits of human knowledge and/or linguistic expressionthat Badiou can propose his heterodox reading of Derrida as nothing less than what Derridas work requires if that work is to be read in keeping with its own critical practice. Or again, the great virtue of Badious brief yet piercing traversal of Derridas oeuvre is that it brings out
69 See especially Michael Dummett, Truth and Other Enigmas (London: Duckworth, 1978) and The Logical Basis of Metaphysics (Duckworth, 1991); also Christopher Norris, Truth Matters: realism, anti-realism and responsedependence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002) and Neil Tennant, The Taming of the True (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002).


Speculations III the crucial though less than obvious relationship between textual close-reading, political engagement, and a formal dimension none the less rigorous for going by way of those essential formative and motivating conditions that Badiou considers indispensable to any philosophical project meriting the name. For it is just his point that the approach to these issues via mathematicsas the discourse of ontology par excellenceis uniquely revealing even when applied to thinkers who make no explicit use of it just so long as their thought is suciently disciplined to register the pressures and counter-pressures of a truth-oriented discourse capable of pointing beyond their present-best state of knowledge. That Derrida would accept this characterisation of his own work is, I think, strongly attested by the fact that he makes such careful allowance for the constant imbrication of blindness and insightor ideology and critical acumenin so many texts of the Western logocentric canon from Plato to Husserl. What gives Badious reading of Derrida a special interest is its clear demonstration of the factto adapt Barthes aphorism once morethat while a little formalism may lead thought away from a sense of its larger historical and social responsibilities the eect of adopting a more consistent and rigorously formalised approach may well be to restore that missing dimension.70


See Note 40, above.


Synchronicity and Correlationism

Carl Jung as Speculative Realist
Michael Haworth
Goldsmiths, University of London

he name of Carl Gustav Jung tends not to be associated with a concern for philosophical realism, seen, as he is, as one of the worst apologists for obscurantism, mysticism and spiritualism of the modern age. Yet the thesis I try to defend here is that Jungs work can be read as an elaborate attempt to escape the correlationist circle and the impasse of nitude every bit as rigorous and compelling as that undertaken by Quentin Meillassoux in After Finitude. I propose to advance this argument via a reading of that work of his which is considered perhaps the least defensible in terms of philosophical or scientic realism, namely the short treatise entitled Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. It is here that the monist or psychoid ontology underpinning all of Jungs psychological work on the archetypes of the collective unconscious is given its most extensive treatment. This, I will argue, rather than being a pre-critical metaphysical curio is a remarkably sophisticated philosophical concept, consistent with Kants transcendental conditions while transgressing them from within in order to undermine the gap of nitude between thought and being.


Speculations III Intellectual Intuition In the letter to Marcus Herz of February 1772, in which he famously announces his readiness to embark on the critical project, Kant interrogates the correspondence between the object of our representation and the representation itself. What, he asks, guarantees the reference of the internal sense-image to the external object? If the former is merely the result of the subjects being aected by the latter then it can be explained as of cause to eect, otherwise:
if that in us which is called representation was active with regard to the object, i.e., if the object were produced by the representation itself [my italics] (as one thinks of divine cognitions as the archetypes of things) then the conformity of the representations with the objects would also be understood. And so one can at least understand the possibility of both an archetypal intellect, upon whose intuition the things themselves are grounded, as well as an ectypal intellect, which attains the data of its logical activity from the sensuous intuition of things.1

In nite sensuous intuition the object is the cause of the representation, while in the divine intellectual intuition it is the other way around: its objects spring forth from the cognition itself. So while our intuition is dependent upon the object being given to it, the innite mind of God could not conceivably be so dependent upon an object to which it has to conform because this would amount to a limitation and the Supreme Being, as innite, could have no such limitations. Intellectual intuition is thus a limit concept, like the noumenon, invoked in order to ground our nite cognition and root it in the senses. It acts to demonstrate that if we were to step outside of the Kantian system we would immediately involve ourselves in contradictions and absurdities. This distinction is at the heart of the transcendental turn
1 Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics and the Letter to Marcus Herz, February 1772, trans. James W. Ellington (Indianapolis: Hackett), AA 130.


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism and plays a key role in Kants critique of dogmatic pre-critical metaphysics, the latter tacitly assuming that the things as they appear to us are the same as they are outside of any reference to our faculties of cognition. Such a doctrine assumes an eternal Gods-eye perspective as the normative, ideal archetype, of which our human perspective is but a less perfect, confused, although strictly homogeneous version. The belief is that the further we extend our understanding of the way things arethe structure of beingthe closer we come to absolute knowledge. The move Kant instigates, however, is to radically separate nite human cognition from innite divine cognition and this is at the root of the division into appearances and things in themselves, this dichotomy being the dierence between things as they appear from our human standpoint and the same things as seen in their intrinsic being by God. Due to its reliance upon receptivity there is thus an insuperable limit in place upon our knowledge: we can know the object only as it appears to us, which structurally obscures the thing as it is in itself. So fundamental and far-reaching is this schism that any philosophy that makes a claim to positive knowledge of a truth beyond sensibility must reckon with this question of correspondence and give an account of how it purports to have come by this knowledge. So when Quentin Meillassoux boldly asserts that through the knowledge of the necessity of facticity we gain access to a purely intelligible absolute, the question must be raised as to just what kind of knowledge this is. It cannot be gathered through sensible intuition because it is precisely our senses that impose upon us the belief in the necessity of natural laws, through habit and superstition, while from a rational point of view nothing at all supports such an inference. It is here that Meillassoux, somewhat surprisingly, resorts to the Kantian concept of intellectual intuition:
[We] discover in our grasp of facticity the veritable intellectual intuition of the absolute. Intuition, because it is actually in what is that we discover a contingency with no limit other than itself; intellectual


Speculations III
because this contingency is neither visible nor perceptible in things and only thought is capable of accessing it, just as it accesses the chaos that underlies the apparent continuity of phenomena.2

Evidently it is not being employed in a faithful Kantian sense because here thought accesses absolute being while by no means creating it, but it is nothing less than noumenal insight, as described by Kant in a memorable passage in the second Critique bearing the grandiose subheading On the Wisely Commensurate Proportion of the Human Beings Cognitive Power to His Practical Vocation. However, in a move exactly counter to Kants, such a knowledge does not impress upon us a vision of God and eternity, with their dreadful majesty, but rather the complete absence of any necessity, whether divine or otherwise.3 Knowledge is thus radically separated from the senses, indeed on this point is shown to be in direct conict with the senses. Now we are entitled to ask, as Kant does in the letter to Herz, how we are to guarantee the necessary reference of this intellectual intuition to the nature of being itself. The two alternatives Kant presents us with surely still apply: either the innately mathematical essence of being gives itself to thought or thought projects its logical reasoning into being. However, neither option is available to Meillassoux, since taking the former would commit him to an untenable Pythagorean ontology, which he has already explicitly ruled out, and the latter, of course, is intellectual intuition in the Kantian sense. This is why for Kant intellectual intuition could never be receptive, because it is impossible to conceive of how its object would be transmitted to thought. The very bedrock of Meillassouxs enterprise is the thesis that mathematics allows us access to a reality independent of thought, but if this is merely thoughts projection onto reality then we are not yet free of
2 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008), 82. 3 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), AA 146.


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism the correlationist circle. Ray Brassier makes a similar point, writing that if reality is neither inherently mathematical nor necessarily intelligible, why should we assume that being is susceptible to intellectual intuition?4 If this reference is itself also intuited intellectually then too much is conceded to thought and correlationism creeps back in. In the face of Brassiers objections, Meillassoux claried his position somewhat, implicitly acknowledging that his somewhat impish use of such a problematic term from German Idealism conspired to undermine his project, and had to be jettisoned. Thus he proposes instead to employ the oxymoronic term dianoetic intuition, meaning the essential intertwining of a simple intuition and of a discursivity, a demonstrationboth being entailed by the access to factuality.5 As he goes on to explain, if in order to break out of the correlationist circle we were to merely posit an autonomous real axiomatically, the correlationist will always have the rejoinder that this supposedly autonomous real is still posited by thought. The only remaining strategy, Meillassoux says, is the one taken by After Finitude, namely to start from within the circle of correlationism and demonstrate how, in order to maintain its consistency, it must itself appeal to an absolutefacticity:
Hence, the only way to the Real, according to me, is through a proof, a demonstration: a demonstration unveils that facticity is not an ignorance of the hidden reasons of all things but a knowledge of the absolute contingency of all things. The simple intuition of facticity is transmuted by a dianoia, by a demonstration, into an intuition of a radical exteriorityWe have a nous unveiled by a dianoia, an intuition unveiled by a demonstration. This is why I called it an intellectual intuition: not, of course, because it is an intuition which creates its object, as Kant dened it, but because it is an intuition discovered by reasoning.6

Ray Brassier, The Enigma of Realism: On Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude, Collapse II, (2007): 46.

Quentin Meillassoux, Speculative Realism, Collapse III (2007): 433 Ibid., 433-4.


Speculations III A direct intuition could never give us access to the Real, because, as the correlationist would remind us, we only ever intuit our own phenomenal presentations. But a simple logical positing of the Real from which we then draw conclusions will not satisfy the correlationist either. So intellectual (or dianoetic) intuition in Meillassouxs sense is not an immediate, all-at-once revelation of the way things are but is the logical explication of a prior intuition. Through rational demonstration, this intuition (of facticity) is shown to be not what we thought it was. What had seemed to be the insurmountable limit to thought and the essence of nitude is, through dianoetic intuition, revealed to be the key to the very overcoming of nitude. So methodologically speaking, any philosophy that attempts to break free of the correlationist circle must of necessity start from within it. In other words, a philosophy which seeks to transgress the Kantian limits of possible experience must nevertheless remain consistent with Kant in order to avoid charges of indulging in groundless metaphysical speculation. These two critical moments in Meillassouxs procedurethe immanent point of departure and the subsequent transgression through logical reasoningI will argue, describe equally Jungs approach to the circle of correlation and his comparable endeavour to secure a primary absolute in order to guarantee further, derived speculative theses. Archetypes and Noumena As has often been noted by Jungian scholars, one understands nothing of Jungs concept of the archetypes, the prepersonal ideas, motifs and symbols recurrent throughout human history, if one takes it to be a doctrine asserting that every man is born with a set of innate fully-formed psychic images. Rather, in spite of occasional terminological inconsistencies which can lead to confusion, Jung draws a clear and unequivocal distinction between the archetypal ideas and the archetypes themselves, corresponding very closely to the Kantian division between phenomena and noumena. The term archetype 194

Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism applies exclusively to those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to conscious elaboration and are therefore an immediate datum of psychic experience.7 The archetypes stricto sensu are hypothetical and irrepresentable deep-structure psychic patterns leading to certain types of universal mental experience, and we must only assume their existence from their eects and the way they are expressed in fantasmatic forms. Therefore the name archetype does not designate the myths, fables, fairytales or religious stories that are their conscious derivatives, and which already bear the trace of critical evaluation and distance. Nor does it refer to their immediate manifestation, as we encounter it in dreams and visions, which is much more individual, less understandable and more nave than in myths.8 Their appearance in dreams, hallucinations or fantasy is a truer representation than in myths and religious stories, which have become hardened into dogma over time, but they are still manifestations, and as such not the archetypes themselves:
The archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.9

The archetypes in themselves are the same in every subject but the form or manner in which they appear is constituted and shaped by the personal history and circumstances of the subject, although generally proceeding according to familiar patterns. So rather than images sitting there deep within the unconscious of every persons psyche, they are patterns of behaviour making their appearance only in the course of amplication.10 The therapeutic process Jung calls
7 Carl G. Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, in The Collected Works of Carl Jung, 9.1, trans. R.F.C. Hull (London:Routledge and Kegan Paul,1973), 5. 8 9

Ibid., 5.

Ibid., 5.

10 Carl G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, in The Collected Works of Carl Jung, 8, trans. R.F.C. Hull (London :Routledge and Kegan Paul,1969), 205.


Speculations III active imagination is the forcing or helping on its way of this course of amplication, delving into the unconscious psyche by way of active, spontaneous fantasy. On following these fantasmatic inventions where they lead of their own volition they invariably follow certain grooves or psychic imprints, where archaic or mythological gures and motifs appear which betray their archetypal character. So they are not so much inborn, inherited ideas but rather the predisposition or propensity towards those ideas. There is thus a clear, although implicit, correspondence between the archetypes and the Kantian rational ideas which govern our moral behaviour. These latter are not subject to temporal conditions, but are xed and unchanging; all that is variable are the particular circumstances in which they make their appearance. They determine our actions only indirectly, via the categorical imperative, since immediate, direct access is constitutively denied to us. Likewise, the archetypes are timeless, inborn and sensuously unconditioned, however unlike the ideas of reason they are dynamic rather than xed and non-rational. But just as we have practical but not theoretical proof of freedom and the other supersensible ideas, we have pragmatic proof of the archetypes without our being able to encounter them directly. Indeed were we to do so the consequences would no doubt be as catastrophic for our psyche as immediate access to the noumenal dimension is said to be. Gazing straight into this abyss would overwhelm and engulf our individual ego, obliterating us as a result. Perhaps the closest Kantian parallel is with the early parodical work Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, in which Kant allows himself, in an ironic fashion, to speculate upon that which is beyond the bounds of human experience and knowledge. Here, through a satirical reading of the work of Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg (more of whom later), Kant posits in addition to the material world of sense an immaterial, or spirit world, which is a whole self-subsisting realm, its parts in mutual conjunction and intercourse without the instrumentality of anything corporeal.11 The human soul is said to be conjoined

Immanuel Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics,


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism in the two worlds at the same time, but so long as it is incarnated in a body it only clearly perceives the material world, having but a hazy intimation of the other side. As soon as the material body dies this link between the two territories is severed but the soul continues to exist in the spirit realm, unencumbered by materiality. This spirit world bears an obvious resemblance to the collective unconscious, which we likewise inhabit alongside our personal psyche without being clearly aware of it. Furthermore, Kant (still in a satirical register) suggests that there can be communion between the two worlds and spiritual ideas can
pass over into the personal consciousness of man, indeed, not immediately, but still in such a way that, according to the law of the association of ideas, they stir up those pictures which are related to them and awake analogous ideas of our senses. These, it is true, would not be spiritual conceptions themselves, but yet their symbols.12

What else is the archetypal idea other than a mediated, analogous idea of the senses that acts as a symbol for the archetype itself. Since these archetypes cannot be presented immediately but only indirectly evoked, this account corresponds very closely with the model of aesthetic ideas Kant develops in the Critique of Judgement. These are artistic presentations of the imagination which strive to give sensuous form to that which transgresses the limits of all possible experience, evoking something universal and absolute while manifesting it in an original and singular expression. Not only is the collective unconscious the repository of mans experience but at the same time the prior condition of this experience.13 So archetypes are not merely the eect and deposits of ancestral events but at the same time they are signicant determinants of such events. They are theretrans. E.F. Goerwitz, Reprint Ed. (Indianapolis: Kessinger, 2003) 56.
12 13

Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, 69.

Carl G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, in The Collected Works of Carl Jung, 7, trans. R.F.C. Hull (London :Routledge and Kegan Paul,1966), 93.


Speculations III fore both cause and eect, the snake eating its own tail. As Jung often notes, the constellating of archetypal ideas in the unconscious takes place as compensation for neglected parts of the subjects psyche, so that when they build up an irresistible force they impose themselves on the life of the subject, forcing them in a certain direction so as to reorient their psychic balance. Perhapswho knows?these eternal images are what we mean by fate.14 Unus Mundus Jung equates the irrepresentable nature of the archetypes with the smallest particles that physics deals with, whose nature can only be known by their eects. In both cases the physicist or psychologist is attempting to dene an objective order of nature whose behaviour is altered by the fact of its being observed and can at best build up a probable model or construction of how these quantities behave based on their observable eects. In a situation where we have two entities or properties whose existence must be assumed but which cannot be represented or shown in person,
there is always the possibilitywhich we tend to overlookthat it may not be a question of two or more factors but of one only. The identity or non-identity of two irrepresentable quantities is something that cannot be proved.Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two dierent aspects of one and the same thing.15

Jung uses the term psychoid (always as an adjective, never a substantive) to describe these irrepresentable psychophysical
14 15

Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, 107.

Carl G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, in The Collected Works of Carl Jung, 8, trans. R.F.C. Hull (London :Routledge and Kegan Paul,1969), 214-5.


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism processes and this one and the same thing which is neither psychic nor material in nature but prior to both, antecedent to their dierentiation, is named, using the terminology of alchemy and Medieval philosophy, unus mundus, meaning one unitary world. Jung felt this hypothesis to be far from the obscure mysticism it can appear to be at rst sight, but to be a legitimate response to empirical data, informed by developments in particle physics. Indeed, as is well known, Jung developed this concept in collaboration with the Nobel Prize winning physicist and quantum pioneer Wolfgang Pauli (a relationship generally passed over in silence in physics circles, or excused as the individual eccentricities of a great man that has no bearing on his work.) For Jung there are certain privileged events or experiences which manifest this irrepresentable unity of psyche and world and which carry profound and far-reaching implications. Such events are those statistical anomalies attributed to chance or coincidence which seem to fall outside of any known causality and so elude rational explanation. A classic example is the well-documented case of the above-mentioned spiritualist Emanuel Swedenborgs dramatic vision of the great re of Stockholm in 1759 while he was dining in Gothenburg, 250 miles away. It was only two days later that reports from Stockholm conrming Swedenborgs vision, down to the smallest detail, reached them in Gothenburg. Another famous example is one of Jungs own, from his analytic experience. A young patient of his was describing a dream she had had in which she was given a golden scarab. In the middle of her account Jung noticed a tapping against the window of his practice and opened the window, through which ew a rose-chafer beetle, the nearest analogy to a golden scarab that one nds in our latitudeswhich contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt an urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment.16 Although the two cases are very dierent in naturefor one thing the patient was not presenting her dream as if it were

Jung, Synchronicity, 438.


Speculations III a prophetic visionboth are examples of the phenomenon Jung calls synchronicity, dened as the coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding objective process.17 More everyday, commonly experienced instances are unlikely meaningful coincidences, such as thinking of a friend from whom you havent heard in a long time immediately before receiving a telephone call from that same friend, or successions of chance events such as a number or word recurring again and again throughout the course of a day or number of days. Jung does not try to explain away such occurrences with rational accounts, which we are all well versed in providing, but takes them at face value, wishing to account for them on their own merits. However, since these are singular, anomalous occurrences they are on principle incapable of being premeditated and examined in controlled conditions, for the experimental method by nature aims at establishing regular, repeatable events and thus ruling out of consideration the unique or rare results which are put down to chance deviations. Causality, says Jung, anticipating Meillassoux, is a statistical truth, not an absolute truth, and is only generally valid, when operating on the macrocosmic scale: In the realm of very small quantities prediction becomes uncertain, if not impossible, because very small quantities no longer behave in accordance with the known natural laws.18 So broadly speaking the course of nature can be unfailingly expected to follow the laws of cause and eect, but when we are dealing with particular events on a micro scale we can never predict the outcome with complete certainty. Jung also asserts, repeating an often-voiced limitation of the scientic procedure, that the answers given by nature in experimental practices are inuenced by the questions asked, thus giving only a partial, statistical or average view of the natural world. So far, so relatively uncontroversial, but Jung draws from this the contentious conclusion that since causality is not an absolute there must be connections of events which are

Jung, Synchronicity, 480. Ibid., 421.



Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism acausal, and thus demanding another connecting principle to account for them. However, discovering such a principle poses considerable problems, for how can one base a theory on [a]bsolutely unique or ephemeral events whose existence we have no means of either denying or proving?19 We can only rely on anecdotal evidence, which is inherently unreliable. Furthermore, how are we to distinguish genuinely synchronistic or acausal events from mere chance? Much of Jungs evidential foundations rest on J.B. Rhines famous parapsychic experiments (later used by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters) which involve the experimenter turning up a series of cards with dierent geometrical patterns on them while the subject, who is separated by a screen, guesses the sign as each card is turned. In a signicant number of cases the quantity of correct guesses exceeded to a highly improbable degree that which would be expected by chance. After the rst set of experiments the distance between experimenter and subject was increased, even up to hundreds of miles, and much the same results were achieved. Yet more tests were done in which the subjects were told to predict the series of shapes in a set of cards that were only to be turned over at some point in the future, and still the amount of correct guesses exceeded chance probability. Since evidently neither time nor space is an inhibitory factor over the results Jung stresses that such phenomena can have nothing to do with the transmission of force, as the distance to be overcome would diminish its eects. What it points to in fact, Jung suggests, is a psychic relativity of time and space, and a psychic function or psychic condition which is capable of abolishing the time factor and the spatial factor.20 What these experiments, as well as the events referred to above, demonstrate according to Jung, is that there are events which are related to one anothermeaningfully, without there being any possibility of proving that this relation is a causal


Jung, Synchronicity, 422-3. Ibid., 433.



Speculations III one.21 So we are not dealing with a relation of cause and eect, but rather a falling together in time, a kind of simultaneity. Because of this factor of simultaneity, I have picked on the term synchronicity to designate a hypothetical factor equal in rank to causality as a principle of explanation.22 It is important to note the term hypothetical, and the sense that synchronicity does not constitute a positive addition to knowledge but rather a regulative model to help guide an explanation of seemingly unaccountable phenomena. Like Freud before him, Jung refers to Kants conditions of sensibility and suggests, albeit in a very dierent way to Freud, that these conditions do not hold in the unconscious. They are postulated by the conscious mind, only becoming xed concepts in the course of [mans] mental development, thanks largely to the introduction of measurement.23 This strongly recalls Heideggers account of the genesis of our vulgar concepts of time and space, and the covering over of our primordial existential experience:
They [time and space] are hypostatised concepts born of the discriminating activity of the conscious mind, and they form the indispensable coordinates for describing the behaviour of bodies in motion. They are, therefore, essentially psychic in origin, which is probably the reason that impelled Kant to regard them as a priori categories. But if space and time are only apparently properties of bodies in motion and are created by the intellectual needs of the observer, then their relativisation by psychic conditions is no longer a matter for astonishment but is brought within the bounds of possibility. This possibility presents itself when the psyche observes, not external bodies, but itself.24

In the case of the parapsychic experiments, the subjects do not see the shapes on the cards through some magical power of clairvoyance, for the information does not reach

Jung, Synchronicity,, 435. Ibid., 435. Ibid., 436. Ibid., 436.

22 23



Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism them from the outside but from the inside. Thus for Jung the distinction between inner and outer is not as clear-cut as it is for Freud and what the latter calls reality testing assessing whether an internal perception corresponds to an external objectis not such a straightforward matter.25 These inner processes can become drawn to the subjects attention by the seeming impossibility of the task, for as we saw above archetypal contents emerge in a state of impasse or hopelessness and it is generally with the archetypes that we are dealing in synchronistic phenomena. The dream of the golden scarab, for instance, occurred at a critical moment of deadlock in the patients treatment, and the scarab is supposedly a familiar archetypal symbol of rebirth. Since the collective unconscious is universal and unlocalisable, and by nature the same across every case, there is the everpresent possibility that what is taking place at any one time in the collective psyche of an individual is also happening in other individuals or organisms or things or situations.26 This is what apparently seems to have occurred in the scarab dream; it was a conscious representation deriving from the causally inexplicable unconscious knowledge of the events of the following days session with her doctor. What this points to, according to Jung, is a form of knowledge, or immediacy of psychic images which does not derive from sense perception.27 The conscious interpretation of this unconscious knowledge comes upon the subject like any other spontaneous thought and can only be veried as a synchronistic occurrence after the physical event has been noted. This suggests that there may be many such examples of this inexplicable knowledge which are never recognised as such because the physical event with which it corresponds is not witnessed by the person to whom it has appeared. Many of
25 Cf. Sigmund Freud, A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams, in Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 14, trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1957), 231-4. 26 27

Jung, Synchronicity, 481.

Ibid., 446.


Speculations III us must have experienced at some time or another that uneasy sensation of ominous precognition, and there are numerous stories, an example of which is given by Jung, where a person claims to have sensed or known when a loved one has died. What happens in such cases is a kind of creatio ex nihilo, an act of creation that is not causally explicable, something ruled out as inconceivable by any nitist philosophy.28 The two seemingly immovable impediments to such a notion are, rstly, that every psychical image or impression derives from sensibly given material, and so any exercising of the imagination amounts only to a reorganisation of this material, and secondly, that the necessary consistency of the time-series precludes it. As Kant argues, if something were to arrive out of nothing there would have had to have been a point of time in which it was not, but to what will you fasten this point of time, if not to what is already there?29 Both objections, however, are overcome in the light of synchronistic phenomena: the rst by the inexplicable non-sensible knowledge such experiences exhibit and the second by the psychic relativity of time and its abolition in the unconscious. So what Jung is nally compelled to assume is that there is in the unconscious something like an a priori knowledge or immediate presence of events which lacks any causal basis.30 If such events were a case of causality then either the dream or vision which foresees a future or simultaneous event caused the event to take place in some telekinetic way or the physical event caused the psychical process, retroactively positing itself somehow. In either case, says Jung, we come up against the unanswerable question of transmission.31 This question of transmission is, of course, that of the two possible relationships explaining the correspondence between object and representation that Kant gives in the letter to Marcus

Jung, Synchronicity, 480.

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996), A188 / B231.
29 30 31

Jung, Synchronicity, 447.

Ibid., 483.


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism Herz. What Jung does, however, is to displace the terms of the question by presenting a third alternative that Kant did not, and indeed could not, have considered. This third alternative relies on the unus mundus hypothesis, suggesting that the two related termsthe psychical experience and the physical eventtake place on another plane prior to their dierentiation, and both the knowledge and the event itself could be said to be its respective manifestations. In other words, the same living reality [is] expressing itself in the psychic state as in the physical.32 So with regard to the two alternatives Kant poses, this would be neither a receptive nor a productive intuition, but still nevertheless a form of intelligible correspondence between thought and object, one that is not mediated through the senses. As such the problem of transmission is overcome, but what exactly forms the correspondence between the two states if it is not a case of causation? Jungs answer to this question postulates an a priori meaning or equivalence, which exists independently of the psyche:
Ifand it seems plausiblethe meaningful coincidence or crossconnection of events cannot be explained causally, then the connecting principle must lie in the equal signicance of parallel events; in other words, their tertium comparationis is meaning. We are so accustomed to regard meaning as a psychic process or content that it never enters our heads to suppose that it could also exist outside the psyche. But we do know at least enough about the psyche not to attribute to it any magical power, and still less can we attribute any magical power to the conscious mind. If, therefore, we entertain the hypothesis that one and the same (transcendental) meaning might manifest itself simultaneously in the human psyche and in the arrangement of an external and independent event, we at once come into conict with the conventional scientic and epistemological views.33

So for Jung this is the least mystical, most scientically rig32 33

Jung, Synchronicity, 452.

Ibid., 482.


Speculations III orous explanation that does justice to the empirical data without ascribing to the psyche a power that far exceeds its empirical range of action, namely intellectual intuition.34 However, by avoiding attributing this particular supernatural power to the psyche Jung risks ascribing to it another, equally extravagant faculty. For when the threshold of consciousness is suciently lowered so that unconscious, archetypal contents can penetrate into our conscious mind this can grant us access to what Jung calls, in quotation marks for caution, absolute knowledge, pointing to the presence in the microcosm of macrocosmic events.35 The microcosm here, which like the Leibnizian monad reects the whole of reality, is the collective unconscious. This is speculative language which must necessarily sound somewhat fantastic because it aims to render intelligible to consciousness something which is essentially inconceivable to it. So in the case of Swedenborgs prophetic vision, for instance, we are not dealing with paranormal foreknowledge, or still less psychokinesis, but with two distinct manifestations of the same event that are connected by meaning or signicance. Since in the unconscious psyche time and space no longer apply and knowledge nds itself in a space-time continuum in which space is no longer space, nor time time, then if the unconscious should develop or maintain a potential in the direction of consciousness, it is then possible for parallel events to be perceived or known.36 Such a knowledge cannot be deliberately utilised, however, since such events are by their nature rare and incapable of being premeditated. Towards a Neutral Language For Jung, the psyche is not exclusively localised to cognitive activity, it rests also on a nervous substrate like the sympathetic system, which is absolutely dierent from the
34 35

Jung, Synchronicity, 482. Ibid., 481.

Ibid., 489.



Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism cerebrospinal system in point of origin and function, [and which] can evidently produce thoughts and perceptions just as easily as the latter.37 Jung illustrates this with anecdotal accounts of people in comas seeing or knowing what is going on around them and giving detailed reports of what they saw upon regaining consciousness, as well as the behaviour of lower organisms such as bees, which in their much-discussed communicative movements (or dances) display transcerebral thought and perception.38 This noncerebral, bodily form of knowledge is, for Jung, an exemplar of the psychoid property inherent in matter so that thought, broadly conceived, is not conned to the human mind but pervades that which is its object. But this is not a simple panpsychism, suggesting that water, plants or rocks possess a rudimentary form of conscious perception, although it is undoubtedly redolent of it. For such a notion could still be considered a dualism, extending the capacity for thought to inanimate objects while upholding its exceptional status.39 Rather, Jungs ontology levels down the disjunction between mere thought and positive being, since it is only for a system which strictly upholds such a distinction that the synchronicity phenomena remain inconceivable. These latter do not erect a miraculous bridge across two properties, establishing a momentary sympathetic connection between thought and external reality while forever keeping them separated by an irreducible chasm, but point to a way of re-conceiving the relationship itself. For a bridge would merely be a means of passage or communication between isolated territories, and this correspondence can only be conceived according to the relation of causality. Rather, Jung oers us a way of escaping the problem, appearing to show that there is some possibility of getting rid of the incommensurability between the

Jung, Synchronicity, 510-11. Ibid., 511.


As a caveat it should be noted that panpsychism is a far from homogeneous concept and the charge of dualism would not necessarily apply to all of its variants.


Speculations III observed and the observer. The result, in that case would be a unity of being which would have to be expressed in terms of a new conceptual languageneutral language, as W. Pauli once called it.40 Neutral because it does not distinguish or discriminate between what is inner and what is outer, the knower and the known. Just as in Jungs analytic treatment the archetypes are constellated at a point of impasse to disclose a hitherto unthinkable means of escape, so Jung himself shows us a line of advance out of the impasse of nitude. As long as thought is considered as an ontological exception we will be forever barred access to the in-itself. The postulate of psychophysical synchronisation, then, simultaneously accomplishes two seemingly contradictory demands: Firstly, by redrawing the ontological lines of demarcation it abolishes the special status of thought, bringing it down from its lonely tower and is thus consistent with cognitive sciences insistence on treating consciousness as fundamentally no dierent from any other physical phenomenon. But secondly, in doing so, thought is not reduced but greatly enhanced and set free from nite limits and its enslavement to receptivity. In passing it could be noted that this thesis proposes a new reading of the Parmenidean dictum that thinking and being are the same, without resorting to an idealist privileging of the former over the latter. The obvious objection presents itself that this is merely a variation on the procedure Meillassoux calls absolutising the correlation.41 What I have tried to show here however, is that far from an absolutised reciprocity of thinking and being, Jungs psychoid absolute takes place prior to the correlation and names a stratum of being antecedent to the dierentiation into subject and object, thought and the given. Neither side of the relationship can be conceived in such termsthought is not yet thought, being is not yet given to thought; this is why a new neutral language is required. To return to those two founding
40 41

Jung, Synchronicity, 512.

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 37.


Michael Haworth Synchronicity and Correlationism moments of Meillassouxs discourse, it can now be seen that his procedure could be quite comfortably mapped onto that of Jung. As we have shown, Jung too recognises the necessity of remaining consistent with Kantian limits to avoid charges of dogmatism, while breaking free of them to allow thought to exceed itself and access an absolute independent of and prior to thought. Or in Meillassouxs terms, Jung escapes the correlationist circle from within rather than merely positing an autonomous real. Secondly, just as Meillassoux proceeds to access an absolute truth via the logical explication of an intuition (of facticity), so Jungs absolute is approached via rational demonstration following the intuition of causally inexplicable phenomena. In both cases we run up against the unanswerable question of transmission but it is boldly and convincingly sidestepped through an imaginative speculative solution.42 And nally, is the thesis of unus mundus really any more outlandish or counter-intuitive than Meillassouxs hyper-chaos or Graham Harmans vicarious causation? It is perhaps time for Jung to be re-claimed for philosophy and rescued from his most fervent New Age admirers as much as his ercest rationalist detractors.


The name of a piece of music by Florian Hecker composed in collaboration with Urbanomic, released on Editions Mego, 2011.


ber stellvertretende Verursachung1

Graham Harman bersetzt von Sergey Sistiaga

ROTZ DER AnHALTEnDEn UnBELIEBTHEIT der Metaphysik, sowie des Realismus innerhalb der kontinentalen Tradition, entwirft dieser Artikel den Umriss einer realistischen Metaphysik. Anstelle eines trben Materialismus geistloser Atome und Billardkugeln, der blicherweise heraufbeschworen wird, um den Spa in der Philosophie zu verderben, werde ich einen seltsamen Realismus verteidigen. Dieses Modell beinhaltet eine Welt, vollgepackt mit gespenstigen, realen Objekten, die sich gegenseitig aus unerforschlicher Tiefe Signale senden und unfhig sind sich einander ganz zu berhren. Hier besteht eine oenkundige Beziehung zur Tradition, die als Okkasionalismus bekannt ist und die als Erste nahelegte, dass eine direkte Wechselwirkung zwischen Entitten unmglich sei. Eine andere klare Verbindung besteht zur verwandten skeptischen Tradition, die Objekte als nebeneinanderliegend und ohne direkte Verbindung betrachtet, obwohl die betreenden Objekte hier eher menschliche Wahrnehmungen, denn reale unabhngige Objekte sind. Dennoch wird dieser Artikel die Lsung des Problems durch eine einsame, magische Superentitt,
1 bersetzung von Graham Harmans Aufsatz: On Vicarious Causation. Dieser wurde zuerst publiziert in: Collapse II (March 2007), S.171-205 (A.d..).


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung die verantwortlich fr jede Relation ist (sei es Gott fr Malebranche und seine irakischen Vorlufer oder der menschliche Geist fr Skeptiker, Empiristen und Idealisten), zugunsten einer stellvertretenden Verursachung verwerfen, welche lokal ber jeden Teil des Kosmos verteilt ist. Obwohl ihre Seltsamkeit eher zu Verwunderung als zu Widerstand fhren mag, ist stellvertretende Verursachung nicht irgendein autistischer Mondstrahl, der durch das Fenster eines Asyls eindringt. Stattdessen ist sie die Startrampe fr eine rigoros post-heideggerianische Philosophie einerseits, wie die angemessene Rckkehr zum ehrwrdigen Problem der Kommunikation zwischen Substanzen andererseits. Der Begri der stellvertretenden Verursachung2 besteht aus zwei Teilen, die beide gegen den Strich der heutigen Philosophie gehen.3 Kausalitt war seit dem 17. Jahrhundert selten ein eigenstndiges Thema der Forschung. Die vermeintlich groe Debatte zwischen skeptischen und transzendentalen Philosophen ber Kausalitt ist bestenfalls ein Streit ber das Ja oder Nein der Frage, ob kausale Notwendigkeit existiere oder nicht und in der Praxis nur eine Auseinandersetzung, ob diese erkannt werden knne oder nicht. Was fehlte, war eine aktive Auseinandersetzung ber die eigentliche Natur der Kausalitt als solcher. Folgendes wird heute fr selbstverstndlich gehalten: Ein Objekt bt Kraft auf ein anderes aus und bewirkt eine nderung seiner physikalischen Lage oder anderer Eigenschaften. Niemand sieht auch nur die Mglichkeit ber die Interaktion zwischen Feuer und Baumwolle zu sprechen, da sich die Philosophie ausschlielich mit der alleinigen Kluft zwischen Mensch und Welt beschftigt, sei es auch nur um diese zu verneinen. Unbelebte Beziehungen wurden den Laboratorien zur Erforschung berlassen,
2 bersetzung von vicarious causation: Das englische vicarious, vom lateinischen vicarius = stellvertretend stammend, wurde mit stellvertretend bersetzt (A.d..). 3 Dieses Konzept wurde zuerst in meinem Buch; Guerrilla Metaphysics. Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, Chicago, Open Court 2005, eingefhrt.


Speculations III wo deren metaphysischer Charakter oen verworfen wird. Das Thema der Verursachung in der Philosophie wieder zu beleben, bedeutet die Dominanz Kants kopernikanischer Revolution mitsamt ihrem einzigen und einsamen Graben zwischen Menschen und allem anderen zurckzuweisen. Obwohl ich behaupten werde, dass reale Objekte jenseits des sinnlichen Zugangs der Menschen existieren, sollte dies nicht mit Kants Unterscheidung zwischen Phaenomena und Noumena verwechselt werden. Whrend Kants Unterscheidung nur fr Menschen alleine besteht, behaupte ich, dass sich eine Billardkugel vor einer anderen nicht weniger verbirgt, wie die Billardkugel an sich sich vor Menschen verbirgt. Wenn ein Hagelsturm Weinhnge verwstet oder Wellen in einem Teich schlgt, dann sind diese Relationen4 der Philosophie genauso wrdig, wie der endlose Disput ber die Kluft oder Nicht-Kluft zwischen Sein und Denken. Weder Kant noch Hegel oder deren heutige Cousins haben etwas ber die Kollision von Billardkugeln an sich zu sagen. Im vergangenen Jahrhundert wurde Parmenides Doktrin, dass Sein und Denken dasselbe seien, von Husserl impliziert, von Heidegger explizit gemacht und nachdrcklich von Badiou wieder betont. Aber diese Gleichsetzung von Sein und Denken muss abgelehnt werden, da sie uns in einer Mensch-WeltKupplung stranden lsst, die die Erfolge vergangener Jahre blo nachstellt. Das Problem der Kausalitt wiederzubeleben bedeutet aus einer epistemologischen Sackgasse auszubrechen und die metaphysische Frage, was Relation bedeutet, wieder zu beleben. Neben der Verursachung gibt es auch noch den stellvertretenden Teil des Begris, der anklingen lsst, dass Relationen niemals direkt auf die autonome Realitt ihrer Komponenten stoen. Auch nach tausend Jahren ist Substanz der beste Name fr eine solche Realitt. Die weitverbreitete Zurckhaltung gegenber der Substanz ist nichts anderes als die Abscheu vor gewissen unzutreenden Substanzmodellen und solche Modelle knnen ersetzt werden. Neben Substanz

Die Worte Relation und Beziehung werden synonym fr das englische relation verwendet (A.d..).


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung wird der Begri der Objekte5 benutzt, um auf unabhngige Realitten aller Art zu verweisen. Mit dem Vorteil, dass dieser Begri Platz fr zeitliche und knstliche Objekte schafft, die zu oft vom Rang der Substanz ausgeschlossen wurden. Indem dieser Artikel jedes Privileg menschlichen Zugangs zur Welt zurckweist und die Frage des menschlichen Bewusstseins auf genau die gleiche Grundlage stellt, wie ein Duell zwischen Kanarienvgeln, Mikroben, Erdbeben, Atomen und Teer, knnte man meinen er hre sich an wie eine Verteidigung des wissenschaftlichen Naturalismus, der alles auf physikalische Ereignisse reduziert. Aber der Begri stellvertretend wurde dazu entworfen, allen Formen des Naturalismus entgegenzuwirken, indem er darauf hinweist, dass wir immer noch keine Ahnung haben, wie physische Relationen (oder jeder anderen Art) an erster Stelle mglich sind. Denn wie ich behaupten werde, verbergen sich Objekte endlos voreinander und fgen sich ihre Ste nur ber einen Vikar6 oder Mittelsmann zu. Die Philosophie bendet sich seit einigen Jahrhunderten in der Defensive gegenber den Naturwissenschaften und geniet nun weniger gesellschaftliches Prestige und hat berraschenderweise einen engeren Gegenstandsbereich. Ein kurzer Blick auf die Geschichte zeigt, dass dies nicht immer der Fall gewesen ist. Um die Oensive wieder aufzunehmen, mssen wir nur den lange bestehenden Trend umkehren, der besagt auf alle Spekulation ber Objekte zu verzichten. Und freiwillig fr eine Ausgangsperre fr immer kleinere Gettos rein menschlicher Wirklichkeiten eintreten: Sprache, Text, politische Macht. Stellvertretende Verursachung befreit uns von einer solchen Gefangennahme, indem sie uns ins Herz der unbelebten Welt, ob knstlich oder natrlich, zurckfhrt. Die Einzigartigkeit
5 Im Folgendem werden die Wrter Objekt und Gegenstand synonym fr das englische object verwendet (A.d..). 6 Im Original handelt es sich um ein Wortspiel bestehend aus der Kombination des Adjektivs vicarious und dem Substantiv vicar. Ein Vikar ist ein Stellvertreter. blicherweise ein stndiger oder zeitweiliger Stellvertreter einer anderen Amtsperson innerhalb der kath. Kirche. In der Schweiz kann ein Vikar auch Stellvertreter eines Lehrers sein (A.d..).


Speculations III der Philosophie wird nicht durch die Abschottung einer erlesenen Zone menschlicher Wirklichkeit, die durch die Wissenschaft unantastbar bleibt, gewonnen, sondern durch die Behandlung derselben Welt, nur auf andere Art und Weise. In klassischen Worten ausgedrckt mssen wir einmal mehr ber Verursachung spekulieren und zugleich deren Reduktion auf eziente Verursachung verbieten. Stellvertretende Verursachung, von der die Wissenschaft momentan nichts wei, ist dem, was man formale Ursache nennt nher. Zu sagen, dass die formale Ursache stellvertretend operiert, heit, dass Formen einander nicht direkt berhren, sich aber irgendwie verschmelzen, fusionieren und in einen gemeinsamen Raum dekomprimieren, von dem alle teilweise abwesend sind. Meine Behauptung ist, dass sich zwei Entitten gegenseitig nur beeinussen, wenn sie sich im Inneren einer Dritten treen, wo sie nebeneinander existieren, bis etwas passiert, das ihnen erlaubt in Wechselwirkung zu treten. In diesem Sinne ist die Theorie der stellvertretenden Verursachung eine Theorie der geschmolzenen Innenkerne von Objekteneine Art Plattentektonik der Ontologie. 1. Zwei Arten von Objekten Whrend die phnomenologische Bewegung Husserls und Heideggers zu wenig unternahm den Idealismus des vorangegangenen Clusters groer Philosophen zu berwinden, zeigen sie und ihre Nachfolger oftmals ein neuartiges Interesse an spezischen und konkreten Entitten. Briefksten, Hmmer, Zigaretten und Seidenkleidung sind in der Phnomenologie auf eine Weise zu Hause, wie sie es niemals fr die frheren klassischen Figuren des deutschen Denkens waren. Auch wenn Husserl und Heidegger dem menschlichen Dasein als dem Mittelpunkt der Philosophie zu verhaftet bleiben, so heben doch beide, leise und jeder in unterschiedlicher Manier, Objekte in die Hauptrolle. Whrend Husserl sein System auf intentionalen oder ideellen Objekten basiert (welche ich in sinnliche Objekte umtaufen werde), stellt


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung Heidegger mithilfe seiner berhmten Zeug-Untersuchung7 reale Objekte wieder fr die Philosophie her. Es wird selten erkannt, dass diese zwei Objekttypen beide unterschiedlich und ergnzend sind. Wird das Zusammenspiel zwischen realen und sinnlichen Objekten ernst genommen, liefert es der Ontologie ein radikal neues Thema. In Heideggers Zeug-Untersuchung, die seine Gegner nicht weniger fasziniert wie seine Verbndete, nden wir vielleicht die bestndigste Einsicht der Philosophie des 20. Jahrhunderts. Unser ursprngliches Verhltnis zu Objekten liegt nicht in der Wahrnehmung oder unserem theoretisieren ber sie, sondern einfach in unserem sich auf sie Verlassen fr ein tiefer liegendes Ziel. Dieser erste Schritt ist zwar ntzlich genug, verfehlt aber das Wesen des heideggerschen Durchbruchs, den selbst er nie ganz begreift. Bleiben wir auf dieser Stufe stehen, knnte es den Anschein haben, dass Heidegger blo behauptet, alle Theorie sei in der Praxis begrndet und wir bruchten eine alltgliche Beziehung zu Leoparden oder Suren, bevor wir sie anstarrten oder eine Wissenschaft ber sie entwickelten. Man halte fest, dass selbst unsere praktische Bezugnahme zu diesen Objekten es versumt diese vollstndig zu erfassen. Der Stammesangehrige, der mit dem gottgleichen Leopard lebt oder der Gefangene, der geheime Nachrichten mit Zitronensaft schreibt, sind der dunklen
Zeug-Untersuchung ist lediglich die bersetzung des vom Verfasser dieses Artikels als tool-analysis bezeichneten Konzepts. Dieses ist so bei Heidegger oder in der Heideggerforschung nicht zu nden, stellt aber den zentralen Interpretationszugang des Verfassers zu Heidegger dar. Die tool-analysis bezieht sich auf die Unterscheidung zwischen der Vorhandenheit und Zuhandenheit von Gegenstnden oder Zeug, wie dem berhmten Hammer Heideggers. Fr Harman ist Heideggers Untersuchung des Zeugs nicht als Sieg der Praxis ber die Theorie oder sprachlicher Zeichen ber die Dinge an sich zu deuten, sondern im Gegenteil, als Weg zu den Gegenstnden ansich zurck. Zuhandenheit bezieht sich fr Harman nicht auf Gegenstnde, insofern diese menschlichen Zwecken dienen, sondern auf Objekte, die sich theoretischem wie praktischem Zugang der Menschen entziehen und die eine eigene, nie fassbare, Realitt besitzen, die auf keinem Weg vollstndig erschpft oder gekannt werden kann. Siehe dazu: Harman, G., Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, Open Court Publishing Company 2002, hier: S.1-2. (A.d..).


Speculations III Realitt dieser Objekte nicht weniger weit entfernt, als der Wissenschaftler, der sie anstarrt. Wenn beideWahrnehmung und TheorieEntitten objektivieren und sie zu einseitigen Karikaturen ihrer tosenden Tiefe reduzieren, dann ist dasselbe fr praktische Manipulation wahr. Wir verzerren, wenn wir sehen und wir verzerren, wenn wir benutzen. Auch ist die Snde der Karikatur kein rein menschliches Laster. Hunde haben keinen Kontakt mit der vollen Realitt des Knochens, genauso wenig wie Heuschrecken mit Getreidestngeln, Viren mit Zellen, Steine mit Fensterscheiben oder Planeten mit Monden. Es ist nicht das menschliche Bewusstsein, das die Realitt verzerrt, sondern Relationalitt per se. Heideggers ZeugUntersuchung gibt uns unbewussterweise die tiefstmgliche Darstellung des klassischen Risses zwischen Substanz und Relation. Wenn etwas vorhanden ist, bedeutet dies schlicht, dass es durch irgendeine Art der Relation registriert wird: ob sinnlich, theoretisch, praktisch oder rein kausal. Zuhanden zu sein bedeutet nicht im engeren Sinne ntzlich zu sein, sondern sich in unterirdische Tiefen zu entziehen, auf die sich andere Objekte sttzen, ohne diese jemals voll zu sondieren oder auszuloten.8 Wenn Objekte uns verfehlen erfahren wir eine Negation ihrer zugnglichen Konturen und werden uns gewahr, dass sich das Objekt all dem was wir von ihm erfassen entzieht. Dieses Dilemma gibt den Anlass zum Thema der stellvertretenden Verursachung. Denn wenn Objekte sich allen Relationen entziehen, knnten wir uns wundern, wie sie berhaupt Kontakt herstellen. Heideggers Zeug-Untersuchung net die Tore fr einen neuen seltsamen Realismus, in dem Entitten vage vom Meeresgrund auimmern: die unfhig sind Kontakt herzustellen, aber es trotzdem irgendwie schaen. Eine andere Art Objekt bildet die Basis fr Husserls Philosophie. Trotz komplizierter Anstrengungen Husserl von Anschuldigungen des Idealismus freizusprechen, grenzt er die Philosophie zu einem Raum purer Idealitt ein. Die Phn8 Fr eine detaillierte Interpretation von Heiderggers Zeug-Untersuchung, siehe mein erstes Buch: Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, Chicago, Open Court 2002.


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung omenologie kann nicht darber sprechen, wie ein Gegenstand einen anderen zerbricht oder verbrennt, da dies die Welt der Macht wissenschaftlicher Erklrungen ausliefern wrde, die ausschlielich naturalistische Theorien verwendet. Die einzige rigorose Methode besteht fr Husserl darin, zu beschreiben, wie die Welt dem Bewusstsein vor aller solcher Theorie gegeben ist. Philosophie wird zur Studie von Phnomenen, nicht von realen Objekten. Nichtsdestoweniger sind Phnomene Objekte: in einem neuen idealen Sinne. Denn was wir in der Wahrnehmung erfahren sind keine krperlosen Eigenschaften, wie der Empirist meint; stattdessen begegnen wir einer in Stcke zerbrochenen Welt. Bume, Briefksten, Flugzeuge oder Skelette liegen vor uns ausgebreitet, von denen jedes spezische Stimmungen herbeifhrt und mit verschiedenen untergeordneten Eigenschaften funkelt. Da wir nur ber den phnomenalen Bereich sprechen, macht es nichts aus, ob es sich bei diesen Dingen um Halluzinationen handelt; selbst Illusionen leisten die ehrliche Arbeit, unsere Wahrnehmung in diskrete Zonen zu organisieren. Es ist bereits anzumerken, dass sinnliche Objekte ein anderes Schicksal als reale Objekte teilen. Whrend echte Zebras und Leuchttrme sich direktem Zugang entziehen, entziehen sich ihre sinnlichen Gegenstcke nicht im geringsten. Denn hier ist ein Zebra vor mir. Zugegebenermaen kann ich es aus einer unendlichen Vielfalt von Winkeln und Abstnden betrachten, in Trauer oder Begeisterung, whrend eines Sonnenuntergangs oder im peitschenden Regen und keiner dieser Momente erschpft alle mglichen Wahrnehmungen davon. Trotzdem ist das Zebra als Ganzes in allen mglichen partiellen Prolen fr mich da; ich sehe direkt durch diese hindurch und schaue auf es, als ein vereinigtes Objekt. Obwohl gewisse spezische visuelle oder konzeptuelle Prole des Zebras fr uns ntig sind, um es zu erfahren, liegt das vereinigte sinnliche Zebra auf einer tieferen Ebene der Wahrnehmung, als diese vorbergehenden und vernderbaren Bilder. Jedes sinnliche Prol ist auf dem vereinigten Zebra-Objekt verkrustet, wie ein berzug aus Salzlake. Whrend sich reale Objekte entziehen, liegen sinnliche Objekte direkt vor uns, ber und ber 217

Speculations III vereist mit einer wirbelnden und berssigen ueren Schale. Dieser Unterschied aber scheint den sinnlichen Objekten den entgegengesetzten kausalen Status von realen Objekten zu geben. Vorausgesetzt, dass reale Objekte sich niemals direkt berhren, knnen deren Kausalbeziehungen nur stellvertretend sein. Sinnliche Objekte dagegen, weit davon entfernt sich zu entziehen, existieren von Beginn an nebeneinander in demselben Wahrnehmungsraum, da wir zahlreichen Phnomenen gleichzeitig begegnen. Dies stellt das gegenteilige Problem zur stellvertretenden Verursachung dar: namentlich, warum nicht alle Erscheinungen sofort in einem einzigen Klumpen verschmelzen? Hier muss es ein unbekanntes Blockadeprinzip zwischen ihnen geben. Wenn reale Objekte stellvertretende Verursachung verlangen, dann sind sinnliche Objekte einer gepuerten Verursachung ausgesetzt, in der ihre Interaktionen teilweise gedmmt und nicht voll entwickelt sind. Die Lage ist verworren, dennoch sollte der allgemeine Pfad dieses Artikels bereits klar sein. Reale Objekte entziehen sich, kausaler Verbindungen beraubt, in dunkle ghnende Unterwelten zurck. Im Kontrast dazu neigen sinnliche Objekte derart dazu mit ihren Nachbarn zu interagieren, dass wir uns wundern, warum sie dies nicht jeden Augenblick tun. Der einzige Ort im Kosmos, wo Wechselwirkungen auftreten, ist in anderen Worten der sinnliche, phnomenale Bereich. Gegen Philosophien, die die Oberche als formal oder steril betrachten und kausale Kraft nur schattigen Tiefen gewhren, mssen wir die gegenteilige Ansicht verteidigen: Diskrete, autonome Form liegt nur in der Tiefe, whrend dramatische Kraft und Wechselwirkung entlang der Oberche ieen. Alle Beziehungen sind oberchlich. Aus diesem Grund mssen wir herausnden, wie reale Objekte in den Bereich der Erscheinungen durchstoen, dem einzigen Ort, an dem man Verbindungen eingeht. Die vielfltigen Eruptionen realer Objekte in die Sinnlichkeit liegen Seite an Seite vor sofortiger Wechselwirkung gepuert. Irgendetwas muss auf der sinnlichen Ebene passieren, das ihnen erlaubt in Kontakt zu treten, genauso wie bei korrosiven, Seite an Seite in einer 218

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung Bombe liegenden Chemikalien, die nur durch einen dnnen Film getrennt werden, der ber die Zeit hinweggefressen wird oder von entfernten Signalen durchbrochen wird. 2. Ein Puzzlespiel Es ist bekannt, dass Husserl Wert auf die Intentionalitt des Bewusstseins legt. Wir sind uns immer etwas bewusst, immer auf ein bestimmtes Haus fokussiert, eine Kiefer, einen Wasserball oder einen Stern und in der Tat auf viele solche Objekte zugleich. Es ist nicht weithin bekannt, dass Husserl auch ber das schicksalhafte Paradox stolpert, wonach Intentionalitt beides sei, eines und zwei. In einem ersten Sinne ist meine Begegnung mit einer Kiefer eine vereinigte Relation. Wir knnen von der Begegnung als Ganzem sprechen und dieses Ganze widerstrebt einer erschpfenden Beschreibung. Aber in einem anderen Sinne fusioniere ich klarerweise nicht mit dem Baum in einen einzigen massiven Klumpen; er bleibt in der Wahrnehmung von mir unterschieden. Daraus ergibt sich das seltsame Resultat, dass wir beide in meiner Intention des Baumes das Innere der gesamten intentionalen Relation bewohnen. Diese scheinbar trockene Beobachtung Husserls hat nicht viel Interesse bei seinen Lesern entfacht. Sogar dann, wenn sie kombiniert mit Heideggers Einsicht in den Entzug realer Objekte hinter jede Relation alle Teile fr eine neue Philosophie liefert. Um es zu wiederholen, die Kiefer und ich sind separate Gegenstnde im Innern eines Dritten liegend: der Intention als Ganzem. Es gibt aber eine faszinierende Asymmetrie unter den Mitgliedern dieses Trios. Wir kommen nicht umhin zu bemerken, dass von den zwei Objekten im Inneren eines Dritten lebend, ich ein reales Objekt bin, die Kiefer aber ein blo sinnliches. Das Ich, aufrichtig vertieft in die Dinge, die es wahrnimmt, ist nicht das Ich von anderen aus gesehen, sondern eher das reale Ich, da mein Leben in diesem Moment tatschlich darin besteht von diesen Erscheinungen beschftig zu werden und nicht darin ein sinnliches Objekt fr den Blick anderer oder sogar fr meinen eigenen zu 219

Speculations III sein. Im Gegensatz dazu bewohnt die reale Kiefer nicht die Intention, da der echte Baum (angenommen es gibt so ein Ding) auerhalb jeder Relation zu ihr steht und sich in Tiefen zurckzieht, in die niemals Auenstehende eindringen. Schlielich muss die Intention als Ganzes eher als reales Objekt klassiziert werden, denn als sinnliches Objekt: Denn selbst wenn meine Intention des Baumes die verkommenste Halluzination darstellen sollte, so ist die Intention selbst tatschlich im Gange, vllig unabhngig davon, ob sie sich mit etwas Auenstehendem in Beziehung setzt. Um zusammenzufassen; wir haben eine reale Intention, deren Kern von einem realen Ich und einer sinnlichen Kiefer bewohnt wird. Zustzlich ist da auch ein entzogener realer, auerhalb der Intention liegender Baum (oder etwas, das wir dafrhalten), der aber fhig ist, diese Intention auf noch unbekannten Wegen zu azieren. Zu guter Letzt erscheint der sinnliche Baum niemals in der Form eines nackten Wesens, sondern immer mit verschiedenen Sorten von Lrm verkrustet. Woanders habe ich es schwarzes Rauschen genannt, um hervorzuheben, dass es stark strukturiert ist und keine Art formloses Chaos, nahegelegt vom weien Rauschen des Fernsehers oder Radios.9 Schwarzes Rauschen scheint anfnglich in drei Varianten vorzukommen. Erstens besitzt der sinnliche Baum zentrale oder essenzielle Qualitten10, die immer zu ihm gehren mssen, unter Androhung der Strafe, dass das intentionale Agens es nicht lnger als dasselbe Ding ansieht. Zweitens hat der Baum akzidentelle Eigenschaften, die von Moment zu Moment an seiner Oberche schimmern, ohne unsere Identikation von ihm als ein und demselben zu beeintrchtigen. Schlielich steht die Kiefer in Beziehung zu unzhligen peripheren Objekten, die dieselbe Intention bevlkern (benachbarte Bume, Berge, Wild, Hasen, Nebelwolken). Wir sollten fnf verschiedene Relationsarten zwischen all diesen Objekten festhalten:

Guerrilla Metaphysics, S. 183.

Die Wrter Eigenschaft und Qualitt werden synonym fr das englische quality benutzt (A.d..).


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung 1. Enthaltensein. Die Intention als Ganzes enthlt beides, das reale Ich und den sinnlichen Baum. 2. Nachbarschaft. Die verschieden sinnlichen Objekte in einer Intention liegen Seite an Seite, ohne sich einander zu beintrchtigen. Nur manchmal verschmelzen oder vermischen sie sich. Innerhalb gewisser Grenzen kann jeder Nachbar des sinnlichen Objektes vermischt und variiert werden, ohne die Identitt dieses Objekts zu beschdigen, genauso wie wenn wabernde Nebelschwaden nicht mit meinem Blickpunkt auf den Baum interferieren. 3. Aufrichtigkeit. Genau in diesem Augenblick bin ich in den sinnlichen Baum vertieft oder von ihm fasziniert, selbst wenn meine Haltung zu ihm vllig zynisch und manipulativ sein sollte. Ich beinhalte nicht den sinnlichen Baum, denn das ist die Rolle der vereinigten Intention, die die Bhne meiner Aufrichtigkeit liefert, ohne mit ihr identisch zu sein. Und ich bin nicht blo mit dem Baum benachbart, da er mich in der Tat auf eine Weise berhrt, die mein ganzes Leben ausfllt. Ich gebe meine Energie aus, um den Baum ernst zu nehmen, wohingegen der sinnliche Baum mir diesen Gefallen nicht erwidern kann, da er nicht real ist. 4. Verbindung. Die Intention als Ganze muss aus einer realen Verbindung realer Objekte erwachsen, wenngleich einer indirekten Verbindung. Immerhin liefern die anderen mglichen Verbindungen komplett verschiedene Resultate. Zwei sinnliche Objekte sitzen schlicht Seite an Seite. Und mein aufrichtiges Vertieftsein in Bume oder Windmhlen ist blo das Innere der Intention, nicht die vereinigte Intention selbst. Daher wird aus der Verbindung zweier anderer realer Gegenstnde, durch unbekannte stellvertretende Mittel, selbst ein reales Objekt geboren. 5. berhaupt keine Relation. Das ist der gewhnliche Zustand der Dinge, verneint nur von fanatischen Holisten, jenen Extremisten, die Spiegel wie Zucker in der Strae an jedes Objekt verteilen, das die Strae herunterstolpert. Reale Objekte sind zu direktem Kontakt unfhig und viele ben in der Tat berhaupt keine Wirkung aufeinander aus. Selbst das allgemeine Gesetz der Gravitation trifft nur auf eine kleine 221

Speculations III Klasse physikalischer Objekte zu und betrifft selbst dann nur einen kleinen Teil ihrer Realitt. Und in einem unterschiedlichen Fall hat der sinnliche Baum keinerlei Beziehung zu mir, selbst wenn ich aufrichtig in ihn vertieft bin. Der Sauersto, den ich einatme, kommt vom realen Baum, nicht von meiner Wahrnehmung desselben. Der sinnliche Baum ist ein Phantasma, das nur im Kern irgendeiner Intention berlebt und nicht einmal unabhngige Relationen mit seinen phantomartigen Nachbarn unterhlt. Diese werden nur stellvertretend durch mich zueinander in Beziehung gesetzt, insofern ich aufrichtig in beide vertieft bin. Die diese Welt bevlkernden Objekte stehen immer in einer dieser fnf Beziehungen zueinander. In Guerilla Metaphysics schlug ich vor, dass Verursachung immer stellvertretend, asymmetrisch und gepuert ist. Stellvertretend bedeutet, dass sich Objekte durch einen Stellvertreter begegnen. ber sinnliche Prole, die ausschlielich im Inneren einer anderen Entitt gefunden werden. Asymmetrisch bedeutet, dass sich die anfngliche Konfrontation jedes Mal zwischen einem realen Objekt und einem sinnlichen entfaltet. Und gepuert bedeutet, dass weder ich mit dem Baum verschmelze, noch der Baum mit seinen sinnlichen Nachbarn, da alle durch unbekannte Firewalls in Schach gehalten werden, welche die Privatsphre eines jeden aufrechterhalten. Aus dem asymmetrischen und gepuerten Innenleben eines Objekts entstehen gelegentlich stellvertretende Verbindungen (im zweifachen Sinne), die neuen Objekten mit eigenem Innenraum das Leben schenken. Es besteht ein bestndiges sich Treen von asymmetrischen Partnern im Inneren eines vereinigten Objektes: Ein Reales trifft den sinnlichen Vikar oder Stellvertreter eines anderen. Verursachung selbst ereignet sich, wenn diese Hindernisse irgendwie aufgehoben oder durchbrochen werden. In den Begrien des 17. Jahrhunderts ist die unmittelbare Nhe von realen und sinnlichen Objekten blo die Okkasion fr eine Verbindung zwischen einem realen Objekt innerhalb der Intention und einem anderen, auerhalb von ihr liegendem realen Objekt. Auf diesem Weg werden Schchte und Fracht-


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung tunnel zwischen Objekten konstruiert, die andernfalls in privaten Vakua in Quarantne gehalten wrden. Wir haben jetzt fnf Objektarten (reale Intention, reales Ich, realer Baum, sinnlicher Baum, sinnliches Rauschen) und fnf verschiedene Relationstypen (Enthaltensein, Nachbarschaft, Aufrichtigkeit, Verbindung, und keine). Des Weiteren haben wir drei Adjektive fr das, was sich in einem Objekt entfaltet (stellvertretend, asymmetrisch, gepuert) und drei verschiedene Arten des Rauschens (Qualitten, Akzidentien, Relationen), welche das sinnliche Objekt umgeben. Whrend dies nicht unbedingt einen vollstndigen Zensus der Wirklichkeit darstellt und eventuell aufpoliert werden muss oder einer Erweiterung bedarf, so bietet es doch ein gutes Anfangsmodell, dessen bloe Strenge helfen wird, jene Elemente auszuruchern, die es vielleicht bersehen haben knnte. Was abzuwarten bleibt, ist, wie diese Elemente interagieren, wie eine Relationsart sich in eine andere umwandelt und wie neue reale Objekte paradoxerweise aus der Interaktion zwischen realen und sinnlichen Objekten entstehen und sogar wie sinnliche Gegenstnde es schaen sich zu verkuppeln und zu entkuppeln wie Waggons eines Geisterzuges. Diese Art von Problemen stellt den Inhalt Objekt-orientierter Philosophie11 dar; dem unvermeidlichen Mutanten aus Husserls intentionalen Objekten und Heideggers realen. Diese wiederum sind nur die derzeitigen Erben von Humes benachbarten Impressionen und Ideen (Husserl) und den unzusammenhngenden Objekten Malebranches und dessen ascharitischen Vorlufern (Heidegger).
11 Das Label Objekt-orientierte-Philosophie wurde vom Autor Graham Harman selbst geprgt. Object-oriented philosophy kann diesem zufolge als Unterart des Spekulativen Realismus (speculative realism) gesehen werden. Die zwei zentralen Pfeiler dieser auf Objekte zentrierten Philosophie sehen wie folgt aus: 1. Verschiedene Entitten unterschiedlichen Mastabs (nicht nur Quarks oder Neutrinos) sind der ultimative Sto, aus dem das Universum besteht. 2. Diese Entitten werden niemals durch ihre Relationen oder die Summe all ihrer Relation erschpft, sie sind mehr als das. Im Gegenteil, Objekte entziehen sich geradezu jeder Relation. Vgl.: Graham Harman, brief SR/OOO tutorial, in: (http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/ brief-srooo-tutorial/) (A.d..).


Speculations III Das Problem der Philosophie hnelt nun einem Puzzlespiel. Wir haben die Teile so vorsichtig wie mglich ausgemacht und keines scheint in aller Deutlichkeit zu fehlen. Auch haben wir ein Bild davon, wie die ultimative Lsung aussehen sollte: die Welt, so wie wir sie kennen, mit ihren verschiedenen Objekten und Wechselwirkungen. Ungleich einem Puzzlespiel entfaltet sich diese in mindestens drei Dimensionen, die sich unablssig von Augenblick zu Augenblick verndern: Aber wie ein solches Puzzle ist es, statt das Originalbild nachzuahmen, mit Spalten und strategischen berschneidungen berst, die alles in einem neuen Licht erscheinen lassen. Genauso wie Fnfjhrige gegenber einem riesigen tausendteiligen Puzzlespiel, liegt unsere grte Bedrohung darin, den Mut zu verlieren. Aber whrend frustrierte Kinder wtend die Stcke auf den Boden werfen und ihre Bettigung wechseln, bleiben wir von Beginn an in unserem Puzzle gefangen, da es das Rtsel unserer Welt selbst ist. Philosophen knnen nur mittels Wahnsinn, mithilfe eines Strickes oder Revolvers daraus entkommen. 3. Ontologie und Metaphysik Neulinge in der Philosophie fragen oft nach dem genauen Unterschied zwischen Ontologie und Metaphysik. Fakt ist, dass es hier keine konsistente Unterscheidung gibt, da jeder Philosoph diese Begrie fr individuelle Zwecke redeniert. Fr Heidegger ist Ontologie die Darstellung, wie den Menschen das Sein enthllt wird, whrend Metaphysik ein beleidigender Begri fr Philosophien bleibt, die alles Seiende in Begrien irgendeiner privilegierten Entitt erklren. Fr Levinas gehrt Ontologie zum globalen Krieg zwischen Seienden, whrend Metaphysik vom unendlichen Anderssein, das jenseits eines solchen Koniktes liegt, spricht. Ich fr meinen Teil habe diese Begrie generell austauschbar fr eine realistische Position benutzt, die allen menschenzentrierten Philosophien entgegengesetzt ist; manchmal, wie im Ernungsteil dieses Artikels, bleibt eine solche Beweglichkeit ntzlich. Dennoch wrde ich gerne eine exaktere Unterscheidung 224

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung vorschlageneine die nicht ohne Bezug auf ihre klassische Abgrenzung ist. Von nun an soll sich Ontologie auf die Beschreibung der basalen strukturalen Eigenschaftendie von allen Objekten geteilt werdenbeziehen und Metaphysik soll die Diskussion fundamentaler Charakteristiken spezischer Entittstypen bedeuten. In diesem Sinne gehren die vorher erwhnten Puzzleteile alleinig der Ontologie an, da kein Objekt von ihrer Herrschaft befreit ist. Diese schlieen die basalen Gegenstze zwischen realen und sinnlichen Objekten, die fnf Relationstypen zwischen ihnen und die Bindung der sinnlichen Objekte an ihre unterschiedlichen Qualitten, Akzidentien und Relationen ein. Raum und Zeit gehren ebenfalls zur Ontologie, da selbst ewige und nichtrumliche Objekte dem engen raumzeitlichen Bereich entweichen, aber keineswegs Raum und Zeit in einem breiteren Sinne entkommen. Die Frage der Universalien scheint auch ein globales Thema der Ontologie zu sein und hier knnte es noch andere geben. Was die Metaphysik betrifft, die sich abgrenzt und die inneren Organe jeder spezischen Entitt analysiert, so sind oensichtlicherweise Menschen, Sprache, Kunstwerke und sogar Gott mgliche Themen. Jede Art voneinander verschiedener Objekte, wie verschwommen auch immer ihre Grenzen sein mgen, kann zum Gegenstand einer Metaphysik werden. Es knnte eine Metaphysik der Kunstwerke, der Psyche oder der Sprache geben und sogar ber Restaurants, Sugetiere, Planeten, Teehuser oder Sportligen. Insofern sich die Philosophie klar von anderen Aktivitten wie Singen oder dem Glckspiel unterscheidet, knnte es eine Metaphysik der Philosophie selbst geben, welche die ausschlaggebenden Eigenschaften dieser Disziplin aufdeckt, egal wie ihre unzhligen Variationen und degenerierten und ausgeklgelten Formen auch aussehen mgen. Die Unterscheidung zwischen Ontologie und Metaphysik wird hier aus einem besonderen Grund vorgeschlagen. Entlang realer Objekte haben wir auch sinnliche Objekte beschrieben, die nur im Inneren irgendeines intentionalen Ganzen existieren. Dennoch wird Intentionalitt von fast allen als eine aufs Menschliche beschrnkte Eigenschaft 225

Speculations III angesehen. Sollte diese Schilderung wahr sein, dann wrden sinnliche Objekte auf eine Metaphysik der menschlichen Wahrnehmung beschrnkt werden, ohne Platz in einer Ontologie, die dafr entworfen wurde, um sich an Plastik und Sanddnen nicht weniger zu richten, wie an Menschen. Diese Beschrnkung der Sinnlichkeit auf das menschliche Reich muss abgewiesen werden. Intentionalitt ist berhaupt keine speziell menschliche Eigenschaft, sondern eine ontologische Eigenschaft von Gegenstnden im Allgemeinen. Fr unsere Zwecke bedeutet Intentionalitt Aufrichtigkeit. Mein Leben wird immer zu einem begrenzten Umfang von Gedanken und Wahrnehmungen in Anspruch genommen. Whrend es verlockend ist solch ein Vertieftsein mit Bewusstsein zu verwechseln, mssen wir uns auf die rudimentrste Bedeutung der Aufrichtigkeit konzentrieren: dem Kontakt zwischen einem realen und einem sinnlichen Objekt. Zum Beispiel knnte ich aufrichtig in die Kontemplation auf der Tischoberche angeordneter Glasmurmeln vertieft sein. Das ist meine Aufrichtigkeit in diesem Moment, da ich auf andere Mglichkeiten grerer oder geringerer Wichtigkeit verzichte, um dieses asketische Zen-Spektakel zu erleben. Man bemerke, dass die Glasmurmeln selbst aufrichtig in ihr Aufdem-Tisch-Liegen vertieft sind, statt in einem Hochofen zu schmelzen oder durch einen Minenschacht zu rollen. (Auch wenn sie Murmeln fr niemand sonst auer Menschen oder verspielte Ktzchen sein mgen, brauchen wir einen Spitznamen fr das vereinigte Objekt, dass wir in unsere Spiele einbeziehen.) Die Frage fr uns ist nicht die Fragestellung des Panpsychisten, ob diese Murmeln irgendwelche rudimentren Denk- und Fhlfhigkeiten besitzen, sondern ob sie als reale Objekte der Tischoberche als sinnlichem Objekt begegnen. Die Antwort lautet Ja. Wir mssen die blichen Bedeutungen der Sinnlichkeit ignorieren und unseren Blick auf eine primitivere kosmische Schicht richten. Es ist klar, dass die Murmeln irgendwo in der Realitt in Kontakt mit gewissen anderen Entitten stehen mssen, die sie kurzzeitig in dem einen oder anderem Zustand stabilisieren. Die Entitten, 226

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung die sie konfrontieren, knnen keine realen Objekte sein, da diese sich dem Kontakt entziehen. Noch knnen die Murmeln gegen ungebundene sinnliche Qualitten anrennen, da Eigenschaften im sinnlichen Bereich immer an Gegenstnde gebunden sind. Es bleibt nur eine Alternative brig: Die Murmeln sind aufrichtig in sinnliche Objekte vertieft. Dieses indirekte Argument wird noch berzeugender, wenn wir die von Murmeln bewohnte Landschaft berprfen, von der sich herausstellt, dass sie die grundlegenden strukturellen Eigenschaften der menschlichen Intentionalitt teilt. Man nehme zunchst Notiz davon, dass diese Murmeln absolut dazu fhig sind, zwischen dem Tisch und der benachbarten relationalen Umgebung zu unterscheiden, wenn auch nicht mit einer primitiven Urteilsfhigkeit im Sinne des Panpsychismus. Gegenwrtig liegen die Murmeln auf dem Tisch, sind aber andererseits von Luft umgeben; weswegen Luft und Tischoberche im Leben der Murmeln benachbart sind. Selbst wenn wir die Murmeln vorsichtig mit Bchern oder geschmolzenem Wachs einrahmen, bleibt der Tisch, unberhrt von unseren ausgefallenen Manipulationen, dasselbe intentionale Objekt. Zweitens konfrontiert die Murmel die Tischoberche gnzlich abseits ihrer akzidentiellen Klte und Glattheit, obwohl es diese Eigenschaften womglich genauso auf eine Weise registriert. Erhitzen wir die Oberseite des Tisches oder machen sie klebrig oder krnig, indem wir verschiedene Materialien auf sie gieen, so bleibt der Tisch als intentionales Objekt der gleiche. Die letzte Frage ist, ob die Murmeln einen Unterschied zwischen dem Tisch und seinen wesentlicheren Eigenschaften, wie seiner Hrte, Ebenheit, Stabilitt oder dem Mangel an Perforation machen knnen. Selbst Menschen knnen diese Unterscheidung zwischen Objekten und deren Qualitten nur in sehr speziellen Fllen treen; da ich diese Flle bald unter der berschrift Verlockung beschreiben werde, sollten wir mit der Frage warten, ob Glasmurmeln fhig sind, dem zu gehorchen. Was schon oensichtlich geworden ist, ist, dass alle realen Objekte eine Landschaft sinnlicher Objekte bewohneneine Spielwiesederen Fluktuationen das Ent227

Speculations III stehen neuer realer Verbindungen ermglicht. Einige dieser Fluktuationen sind ein blo husliches Drama, whrend andere neue Relationen mit der Auenwelt hervorrufen. Alles aber was an der menschlichen Kognition besonders ist, gehrt zu einer komplizierteren Ebene der Philosophie als derjenigen der sinnlichen Gegenstnde, obwohl sie in den Begrien dieser ausgedrckt werden knnen muss. Woanders habe ich die Wendung jede Relation ist selbst ein Objekt gebraucht und ich halte diese Behauptung immer noch fr wahr. Aber da dieser Artikel Relationen redeniert hat und diese jetzt Enthaltensein, Aufrichtigkeit und Nachbarschaft mit einschlieen, muss der Slogan wie folgt umformuliert werden: Jede Verbindung ist selbst ein Objekt. Mein Enthaltensein im intentionalen Akt macht uns beide nicht zu einem neuen Objekt und genauso wenig machen (meistens) zwei oder drei nahe gelegene Wahrnehmungen von Autos kein vereinigtes Objekt. Zwei stellvertretend verbundene reale Gegenstnde aber formen ein neues Objekt, da sie einen neuen Innenraum kreieren. Wenn zwei Objekte ein neues durch stellvertretende Verbindung verursachen, erschaen sie ein neues vereinigtes Ganzes, das nicht nur von auen unerschpich ist, sondern auch im Inneren mit einem realen Objekt gefllt ist, das aufrichtig in sinnliche vertieft ist. Und genauso wie jede Verbindung ein Objekt ist, ist jedes Objekt das Resultat einer Verbindung. Die Geschichte dieser Verbindung bleibt in dessen Herz eingemeielt, wo seine Bestandteile in einer Art kaleidoskopischem Duell eingesperrt sind. Verbindungen entstehen aber nur zwischen realen Objekten und keinen anderen Kombinationen. Dies zieht nach sich, dass meine Beziehung zur sinnlichen Kiefer selbst kein Objekt darstellt, sondern einfach nur eine Konfrontation zwischen zwei Objekten vllig unterschiedlicher Art. Daher ist Intentionalitt, obwohl sie eine Relation zwischen mir und der sinnlichen Kiefer zu sein scheint, blo ihr Inneres. Die Intention selbst resultiert nur aus der ungeklrten stellvertretenden Fusion zwischen mir und der realen Kiefer oder mit was auch immer, das meinen irregeleiteten Glauben erzeugt, ich wrde eine wahrnehmen. 228

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung Um es zu wiederholen; meine Relation mit der sinnlichen Kiefer ist keine ausgewachsene Verbindung, sondern nur eine Aufrichtigkeit. Diese Aufrichtigkeit kann in der Tat in ein Objekt konvertiert werden, wie es in der Analyse unserer eigenen Intentionen oder der anderer geschieht. Wenn ich meine Beziehung zur sinnlichen Kiefer analysiere, habe ich diese Relation zum ersten Mal in ein Objekt umgewandelt. Sie wurde zu einem realen Objekt, insofern ihre exakte Natur der Sicht entweicht, da diese egal wie oft analysiert unerschpich bleibt. Wir stehen nun einer blo sinnlichen Erscheinung der ursprnglich aufrichtigen Beziehung gegenber, die sich jeder Analyse entzieht, genauso wie Hmmer sich ihrer Handhabung entziehen. Ein zweiter und noch gelangweilterer Beobachter knnte sich nun dazu entschlieen eine Analyse meiner Analyse durchzufhren und sie damit in einen Gegenstand zu konvertieren, dessen Natur niemals erfasst werden kann und so weiter bis ins Unendliche. Aber man sollte registrieren, dass es sich nicht um einen inniten Regress handelt: all diese Objekte sind nicht von Beginn an unbegrenzt in der Situation enthalten, sondern werden abfolgend ad nauseam von einer immer verdrehteren und pedantischeren Reihe an Analysten produziert. Zurck zur ersten Ebene, wo sogar meine Beziehung zur sinnlichen Kiefer kein reales Objekt darstellt, sondern einfach eine aufrichtige Relation zweier verschiedener Elemente innerhalb eines greren Elements. Vereinigte Objekte knnen beliebig aus diesem tonartigem Inneren geformt werden. Dies zeigt bereits einen Weg fr aufrichtige Relationen auf, in reale Verbindungen konvertiert zu werden. Ob dies der einzige Weg ist und ob diese Methode alleine den Menschen gehrt ist noch unklar. Ein anderer Punkt ist nun an der Reihe, bevor zum letzten Abschnitt bergegangen wird. Zu sagen, dass sich jedes Objekt auf dem geschmolzenen sinnlichen Kern eines anderen Objektes bendet, unterminiert einige von Heideggers Schlsselannahmen. Fr ihn transzendiert das menschliche Dasein teilweise anderes Seiendes, indem es sich erhebend einen Blick auf dieses, vor dem Hintergrund der Nichtigkeit erhascht. Aber das Innere eines Objektes lsst weder Raum 229

Speculations III fr Transzendenz noch fr Distanz zu: ein in einem einige Meilen entfernten Tal gesehenes Pferd berhrt mich immer noch direkt, insofern ich es sehe. Entfernung liegt nicht in der Sphre der Wahrnehmung, wo mich alles direkt mit grerer oder geringerer Intensitt streift, sondern nur in den sich gegenseitig ausschlieenden, hinter der Wahrnehmung liegenden, realen Gegenstnden. Wir schreiten nicht ber irgendetwas hinaus, sondern sind eher wie Maulwrfe, die sich durch Wind, Wasser und Ideen, nicht weniger wie durch Sprechakte, Texte, Sorgen, Staunen und Dreck tunneln. Wir transzendieren die Welt nicht, stattdessen steigen oder buddeln wir uns hinab in Richtung ihrer zahllosen unterirdischen Hohlrumejeder eine Art Kaleidoskop, wo sinnliche Objekte ihre Farben und Flgel ausbreiten. Weder Endlichkeit noch Negativitt benden sich im Herz der Objekte. Und jeder Fall menschlicher Sterblichkeit ist nur ein tragisches Ereignis unter Trillionen von anderen, den Tod von Haustieren, Insekten, Sternen, Zivilisationen und schlecht gefhrten Lden oder Universitten eingeschlossen. Der Heidegger-Blanchot Todeskult muss aus der Ontologie verbannt werden und gegebenenfalls sogar aus der Metaphysik. 4. Verlockung und Verursachung Manche mgen es strend nden an eine Welt, bestehend aus vakuumversiegelten Objekten zu denken, jedes mit einem funkelnden phnomenalen Inneren, in welches nur von Zeit zu Zeit benachbarte Gegenstnde eindringen. Ein wahrscheinlicheres Problem jedoch ist Gleichgltigkeit. Es scheint kein Bedarf an einer solch sonderbaren Sicht der Wirklichkeit zu geben, da es leicht genug ist an eine Welt bestehend aus rohen Stcken unabnderlicher fester Materie zu denken: wo primre Qualitten die chtigen und dynamischen Serien menschlicher Projektionen sttzen. Meiner Ansicht nach, jedoch hat Heidegger dieses Weltbild obsolet gemacht. Obwohl seine Zeug-Untersuchung nur auf eine Beschreibung des Entzogenseins der Objekte vor dem menschlichen Bewusstsein zielt, ist auch praktische Ttig230

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung keit unfhig die Tiefe der Objekte zu erschpfen und selbst Kausalrelationen scheitern darin einander vollstndig zu begegnen.12 Schlielich wird auch das Konzept der schieren physikalischen Prsenz im Raum von der Zeug-Untersuchung in seinen Grundfesten erschttert: Eine Position innerhalb des Raumes einzunehmen heit immerhin auf Relationen einzugehen und auch wenn Gegenstnde Raum einnehmen, ihre Realitt ist etwas Tieferes. Die Welt ist weder einer graue Matrix objektiver Elemente, noch Rohmaterial fr die Projektion eines sexy menschlichen Dramas auf Schotter und Schlamm. Stattdessen ist sie mit nur lose zusammengewobenen Realittspunkten gefllt: Ein Archipel aus Orakeln oder Bomben, die nur aus der Verborgenheit hervorgesprengt werden, um neue abgeschiedene Tempel hervorzubringen. Die Sprache hier ist metaphorisch, weil sie es sein muss. Whrend die analytische Philosophie darauf Stolz ist, nie mehr zu unterstellen, als sie tatschlich sagt, wird dieses Verfahren einer Welt nicht gerecht, wo Gegenstnde immer mehr sind, als sie buchstblich ausdrcken. Diejenigen, die nur Wert darauf legen Argumente zu erzeugen, erzeugen fast nie Objekte. Neue Gegenstnde jedoch sind die einzig heiligen Frchte fr Schriftsteller, Denker, Politiker, Reisende, Liebende und Ernder. Entlang der Unterscheidung zwischen realen und sinnlichen Objekten gab es fnf verschiedene Beziehungsweisen zwischen diesen: Enthaltensein, Nachbarschaft, Aufrichtigkeit, Verbindung und keine. Unser Ziel ist es etwas Licht auf den Ursprung der Verbindung zu werfen, der einen der fnf Relationen, die am meisten rger fr eine Theorie geisterhafter und entweichender Objekte zu bereiten scheint. Eine Verbindung existiert einfach oder scheitert zu existieren; es handelt sich schlicht um eine binre Frage. Des Weiteren muss eine Verbindung stellvertretend sein, da ein blo nacktes Objekt dem anderen immer entweicht. Ein Gegenstand existiert
Die Idee, dass physikalische Relationen auch eine intentionale Struktur haben, ist eine Minderheitsansicht, aber keineswegs meine eigene Erndung. Siehe zum Beispiel George Molnars faszinierendes Powers: A Study in Metaphysics, Oxford, Oxford University Press 2003, S. 60 .


Speculations III einfach und diese Existenz kann niemals vollstndig im Herzen eines anderen gespiegelt werden. Was wir suchen, ist ein fruchtbarer Boden fr Relationen, aus dem Verbindungen in die Existenz hervorquellen: eine Art Relation, die fhig ist, als Motor der Vernderung im Kosmos zu dienen. Verbindung selbst kann nicht die Lsung liefern, da sie genau das ist, was wir versuchen zu erklren; wenn zwei Objekte verbunden sind, dann ist die Arbeit, die wir zu beobachten wnschen bereits getan. Die Option berhaupt keine Relation hilft auch nicht, denn wenn Dinge nicht aufeinander bezogen sind, dann bleiben sie es, solange wie der gesuchte Vermittler fehlt. Enthaltensein ist uns genauso wenig behilich. Auch hier haben wir blo eine binre Frage: Entweder sind die sinnliche Kiefer und ich zusammen innerhalb einer gegebenen Intention oder wir sind es nicht. Letztlich gibt uns auch Nachbarschaft nicht, was wir brauchen: Bestenfalls verteilt das Wechselspiel der sinnlichen Objekte nur die Grenzen unter ihnen neu, ohne aber zu echten Vernderungen auerhalb ihres geschmolzenen inneren Heimatlandes zu fhren. Die einzig verbliebene Option ist Aufrichtigkeit. Dies muss die Sttte des Wandels in der Welt sein. Ein reales Objekt wohnt, gegen zahlreiche sinnliche gedrckt, dem Kern einer Intention inne. Irgendwie durchbohrt es den farbigen Beschlag und verbindet sich mit dem bereits in der Nhe liegenden, aber vom direkten Kontakt gepuertem realen Objekt. Wenn Licht auf diesen Mechanismus geworfen werden kann, knnte sich die Natur der vier anderen Relationstypen ebenfalls aufklren. Es luft alles auf eine Dynamik der Aufrichtigkeit hinaus, egal ob fr ein menschliches oder andersgeartetes reales Objekt. Aufrichtigkeit hat mit sinnlichen Objekten zu tun, die ber ihre Qualitten deniert werden und in periphere Akzidentien und Relationen eingehllt sind. Was wir suchen, ist die Weise, auf der die aufrichtige Beziehung mit einem sinnlichen Objekt in eine direkte Verbindung mit einem realen Objekt umgewandelt wird. Das Kuppeln und Entkuppeln realer und sinnlicher Objekte ist jetzt unser zentrales Thema. Wir wissen, dass ein sinnlicher Gegenstand von seinen 232

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung Akzidentien und Relationen abtrennbar ist. Die interessante Frage ist, ob er auch von seinen Qualitten abkoppelbar ist, die auf intimere Weise zu ihm zu gehren scheinen. Mit Qualitten meine ich die wesentlichen Qualitten, ohne die man ein Objekt nicht mehr lnger als dasselbe Ding betrachten wrde. Man erinnere sich, dass es hier keine hnderingende Krise der Objektivitt gibt, da wir von Eigenschaften sprechen, die nicht zum Wesen eines realen Objektes gehren, sondern ausschlielich zu den sinnlichen Dingen, die unsere Aufmerksamkeit verlangeneinem Bereich, indem wir selbst die hchsten Richter im Land sind. Jetzt kann man sich vorstellen, dass wir die Eigenschaften der Murmeln dadurch befreien knnen, indem wir oen alle bedeutenden Eigenschaften der Murmeln entdecken und auisten, ohne die sie nicht sein knnten. Dies war die groe Honung Husserls Methode der eidetischen Variation. Aber der Eekt dieser Prozedur ist oberchlich und kann die sinnlichen Murmeln nicht in ihrer Wesenheit erfassen. Es gilt einzufangen, dass sogar whrend unsere Analyse dieser Objekte fortschreitet, wir diese weiterhin als Einheiten ansehen, selbst wenn wir sie auf bestechende Weise in Tausende separater Merkmale zerschneiden. Sogar im Falle eines sinnlichen Objektes knnen die wesentlichen Eigenschaften nicht angegeben und analysiert werden, ohne zu etwas wie Akzidentien zu werden: ungebundene vom Objekt als Ganzem losgelste Merkmale. Unsere Aufrichtigkeit beschftigt sich nicht wirklich mit einer Liste solcher losgelster Merkmale, wie Husserl es einsieht, wenn er dem vereinigtem sinnlichen Objekt Prioritt ber die Myriaden seiner Facetten gewhrt. Die Einheit solcher Objekte deutet sogar darauf hin, dass da nur eine Eigenschaft infrage kommt: dieses Murmel-Wesen oder diese Kieferessenz. Die vereinigte Dingqualitt ist berhaupt kein Rauschen, sondern das sinnliche Objekt selbst. Was Aristoteles Frage betrifft, ob ein Ding mit seinem Wesen identisch sei, so lautet die Antwort fr sinnliche Objekte Ja. Obwohl Eigenschaften weiter oben im Artikel als eine Form des Rauschens beschrieben wurden, ist dies nur insofern wahr, falls diese in Richtung eines akzidentellen Status abschweifen, 233

Speculations III sie ausgebrochen sind und einzeln angefhrt werden. Aber die Existenz einer vereinigten Dingqualitt bedeutet, dass dem sinnlichen Bereich ein gewisses ich wei nicht was innewohnt, welches die Murmel zu einem stetigen Fokus meiner Aufmerksamkeit macht. Anders als die Anhnger von Locke sagen wir nicht je ne sais quoi in einem Geist leichten Spottes, sondern als wahre Aussage ber sinnliche Gegenstnde. Das sinnliche Ding selbst hat einen vereinigten und im Grunde unaussprechlichen Eekt auf unseinen, der nicht zu irgendeiner Auistung von Merkmalen reduziert werden kann. Aber wenn so eine Aufzhlung der Merkmale ein Ding nicht von seinen Qualitten abtrennt, dann knnte es einen anderen Weg geben, der dies ermglicht. Wir haben schon gesehen, dass die stellvertretende Verursachungdas verzauberte Einhorn, welches wir suchenden Kontakt mit den wesentlichen Qualitten eines Dinges erfordert, ohne den Kontakt zum Ding als Ganzem. In diesem Sinne knnte die Entdeckung, wie das sinnliche Objekt sich von seinen Eigenschaften abspaltet, ein Sprungbrett dafr sein ein analoges Ereignis unter realen Objekten zu nden. Die Trennung eines sinnlichen Objekts von seinen Eigenschaften kann als Verlockung13 bezeichnet werden.14 Diese Bezeichnung zeigt genau den bezaubernden Eekt an, der dieses Ereignis hug fr Menschen begleitet und zudem deutet er auf den verwandten Begri der Anspielung hin, da die Verlockung nur auf das Objekt anspielt, ohne dessen Innenleben direkt zu vergegenwrtigen. Im sinnlichen Bereich begegnen wir mit rauschenden Akzidentien und Relationen verkrusteten Gegenstnden. Mgen wir uns auch ausdrcklich einiger ihrer wesentlichen Qualitten bewusst sein, auch wenn so eine Liste die Qualitten blo in etwas
13 Im Original spricht der Autor von allure, das mit Verlockung bersetzt wurde, um den Aspekt des Kderns auszudrcken, der sich aus dem franzsischen leurre herleitet. Das Wort Kdern selbst gibt aber die sthetische Dimension des Reizes nicht adquat wieder und da beide Dimensionen (kdern, reizen) im Begri der Verlockung enthalten sind habe ich dafr optiert (A.d..). 14

Siehe auch Guerrilla Metaphysics, S. 142-4.


Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung Akzidentielles umwandelt und es verfehlt uns die vereinigte Bindung zu geben, die das sinnliche Ding zu einem einzelnen Ding macht. Wir bentigen stattdessen eine Erfahrung, in welcher das sinnliche Objekt von seinen vereinigten und zusammengefgten Eigenschaften abgetrennt ist, denn dies wird zum ersten Mal auf ein reales, hinter einer einzelnen Oberchenqualitt liegendes Objekt, hindeuten. Fr Menschen ist die Metapher eine solche Erfahrung. Wenn der Dichter, mein Herz ist ein Hochofen schreibt, dann fngt das sinnliche Objekt, bekannt als Herz, vage bestimmte Hochofeneigenschaften ein und zieht diese stockend in seine Umlaufbahn. Die Unfhigkeit des Herzens leicht mit Hochofenmerkmalen zu verschmelzen (im Gegensatz zu wrtlichen Aussagen wie mein Herz ist der strkste Muskel meines Krpers), bringt eine Anspielung auf ein gespenstiges, hinter der familiren und alltglichen Bekanntschaft mit einem sinnlichen Herz, liegendes Herzobjekt zuwege. Man nehme Notiz, dass die umgekehrte Metapher gegenber der Ersten vollstndig asymmetrisch ist: Der Hochofen ist ein Herz zieht kardiale Zge in die Umlaufbahn eines sinnlichen Hochofens, welches befreit von den Bindungen zu seinen gewhnlichen Eigenschaften als versteckte Hochofenseele evoziert wird, eine deren animus jetzt rhythmisches Klopfen und einen Kreislauf antreibt. Humor tut etwas hnliches: Wir knnen Bergsons Das Lachen folgen und die Spannungen zwischen einem komisch Dpiertem und den Charakterzgen bemerken, die er nicht mehr frei an sich ndernde Gegebenheiten anpasst. Diese Eigenschaften werden nun als diskret sichtbare Hlle zur Schau gestellt, unter welcher der Akteur glcklos daran scheitert diese zu kontrollieren. Es gibt unzhlbare Beispiele fr Verlockung. In Momenten der Schnheit ist ein Objekt nicht die totale Summe seiner schnen Farben und Proportionen an der Oberche, sondern eine Art Seele, die Eigenschaften von innen heraus beseelend zu Schwindel oder sogar Hypnose beim Betrachter fhren kann. Wenn Heideggers Hammer versagt, scheint sich ein verborgenes Hammerobjekt in einiger Distanz zu seinen einstmals familiren Eigenschaften aus dem Dunkeln ab235

Speculations III zuzeichnen. In der Sprache rufen Namen nach Objekten, die tiefer liegen als ihre Qualitten; in der Liebe hat die geliebte Entitt eine gewisse unter den Konturen und Mngeln der zugnglichen Oberche schwebende Magie. Die Liste der Mglichkeiten ist so umfassend, dass sie es verdienen in einer Enzyklopdie der sthetik kategorisiert zu werden. Bis jetzt hat die sthetik der Philosophie im Allgemeinen als verarmte Tnzerin gedientbewundert fr ihren Charme, kein Gentleman jedoch wrde sie heiraten. Doch in Anbetracht des scheinbar berwltigenden Ausmaes der Verlockung knnte die sthetik eine eher groe Rolle in der Ontologie verdienen. Verschiedene sinnliche Objekte innerhalb der gleichen Intention werden als benachbart beschrieben, sie verschmelzen nicht miteinander, sondern werden vom intentionalen Agens als unterschiedlich angesehen und dieses Agens ist das letzte Berufungsgericht im Reich des Sinnlichen. Dies trifft auf das zu, was Relationen der sinnlichen Objekte genannt wurde. Akzidenzien aber stellen einen anderen Fall dar. Die Oberche eines sinnlichen Objekts liegt nicht blo Seite an Seite mit ihnen. Selbst wenn wir direkt durch diese Akzidenzien hindurchschauen, um das zugrundeliegende sinnliche Ding zu xieren, werden die Akzidenzien nicht als vom Ding abgetrennt, sondern als auf seiner Oberche verkrustet aufgefasst. Dieses Vereisen mit peripheren Qualitten kommt auf interessante Weise daher. Man erinnere sich daran, dass der sinnliche Baum als Ganzes nur aus einer Eigenschaft besteht (derjenigen von der er in der Verlockung getrennt wird). Man beachte, dass diese vereinigte Baumerscheinung immer noch Teile besitzt. Beginnen wir Zweige und Bltter zu entfernen, dann kommen wir zu einem Punkt, an dem wir ihn nicht mehr als denselben Baum ansehen; der Baum hngt von seinen Teilen ab. Dennoch sind diese Teile nur entlang eines eigentmlichen Pfades im Baum vereinigt. Er verschlingt diese nie vollstndig, verwendet aber nur eine begrenzte Portion ihrer Realitt. Was wir als die Akzidenzien des sinnlichen Baumes kennen, sind einfach die berbleibsel seiner Teile, die im neuen Objekt nicht eingesetzten berreste. Jedes dieser Teile ist kompliziert, weil es aus weiteren Teilen 236

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung besteht und so weiter bis ins Unendliche. Wie weit auch immer wir in Richtung dieser Unendlichkeit vordringen, wir nden weiterhin Objekte, keine rohen Sinnesdaten. Es wre falsch zu denken wir wrden einem Feld von Farbpixeln gegenberstehen und dieses dann in objektive Abschnitte formen. Zuerst ist es willkrlich zu denken, dass Punkte von Grn qualitativ basaler seien als eine vereinigte Baum- oder Zweigeigenschaft; alle sind dazu fhig meine Aufrichtigkeit auszufllen und alle haben einen spezisch persnlichen Stil. Zweitens nimmt auch ein angenommenes Grnpixel mindestens die rumliche Ausprgung eines Punktes ein und ist deshalb selbst ein kompliziertes Objekt. Im Reich des Sinnlichen gibt es immer grte Objekte: nmlich jene, die in der Aufrichtigkeit jeden Moment erkannt werden. Aber man kann kein Kleinstes nden, da es immer ein berbleibsel vom Rest der Teile gibt und Teile von Teilen, wie die endlosen Obertne angeschlagener Klaviernoten. Diese Akzidenzien sind die einzig mgliche Quelle des Wandels, da sie alleine die potenzielle Brcke zwischen einem sinnlichen Objekt und einem anderen sind. Denn in einem sinnlichen Objekt selbst, welches immer als ein fait accompli erkannt wird, kann es keine Vernderung geben, es kann hchstens vernichtet oder durch ein Neues ersetzt werden. Akzidenzien besitzen den dualen Status der Zugehrigkeit und Nicht-Zugehrigkeit zu einem Objekt, wie Wimpel an einem Maibaum oder Juwelen auf einer Wasserpfeife. Akzidenzien sind verfhrerische Haken, die aus dem sinnlichen Objekt hervorragen und ihm die Chance geben sich mit anderen zu verbinden und dadurch zwei in eines zu fusionieren. Aber die Teil-Ganzes Relation taucht nicht nur im sinnlichen Bereich auf. Auch ein reales Objekt wird aus Teilen gebildet, deren Verschwinden geradezu dessen Existenz bedroht. Der Unterschied liegt darin, dass die Teile eines sinnlichen Objekts eingekrustet an seiner Oberche liegen: Eher noch fusionieren gewisse Aspekte dieser Teile, um es zu erschaen, whrend der Rest dieser Teile als Rauschen von der Oberche ausstrmt. Im Gegensatz dazu sind die Teile eines realen Objekts im Inneren dieses Objekts enthalten und nicht auf des237

Speculations III sen uere Kruste gepastert. In beiden Fllen gibt es jedoch eine stellvertretende Ursache, die es den Teilen ermglicht sich zu verbinden. Das kann durch die historische Unterscheidung zwischen Skeptizismus und Okkasionalismus, die auf dieselbe Weise komplementr sind, wie Verkrustung und Verbindung, verdeutlicht werden. Hume und Malebranche stehen gegenstzlichen Versionen desselben Problems gegenber. Obwohl Hume vermeintlich die Mglichkeit einer Verbindung anzweifelt, sollte man Notiz nehmen, dass sich fr ihn bereits eine Verbindung ergeben hat: Er ist niemals berrascht, dass zwei Billardkugeln gleichzeitig in seinem Geist liegen, er zweifelt nur daran, ob diese unabhngige Krfte besitzen, um sich gegenseitig Ste zu versetzen. In diesem Sinne beginnt Hume mit der Verbindung innerhalb der Erfahrung und zweifelt blo an der Trennung auerhalb dieser. Malebranche beginnt, die Existenz getrennter Substanzen voraussetzend, auf die umgekehrte Weise, zweifelt aber daran, dass diese denselben Raum auf solch eine Weise einnehmen knnen, um ihre Krfte auszutauschenwas ihn dazu fhrt, die Macht Gottes als ultimativen Verbindungsraum aller Entitten zu postulieren. Wie Hume knnen wir das intentionale Agens als stellvertretende Ursache anderenfalls getrennter Erscheinungen betrachten. Der Baum und sein bergiger Hintergrund sind tatschlich verschieden, dennoch sind sie in sofern vereinigt, wie ich aufrichtig in beide vertieft bin. Aber mehr als das: Wenn die Teile des Baumes fusionieren, um den Baum mit seiner einzelnen Baumqualitt hervorzubringen, dann bin auch ich die stellvertretende Ursache fr die Verbindung dieser sinnlichen Gegenstnde. Selbst wenn ich blo passiv herumsitze ohne auf bertriebene Weise meine Augen oder meinen Geist zu beranstrengen, haben sich diese Teile immer noch fr mich verbunden. Hier dient ein reales Objekt (ich selbst) als stellvertretende Ursache fr zwei oder mehr sinnliche. Im umgekehrten Falle Malebranches knnen wir den Pistolenschuss einer Gottheit nicht als unsere vermittelnde Ursache akzeptieren, da nicht erklrt wird, wie Gott als ein reales Objekt andere reale Objekte berhren knnte: Angst vor Blasphemie ist der 238

Graham Harman ber stellvertretende Verursachung einzige Schutz fr diese unvollstndige Theorie. Stattdessen mssen, genau wie zwei sinnliche Objekte von einem realen stellvertretend verbunden werden, zwei reale Objekte stellvertretend durch ein sinnliches verbunden werden. Ich trete mit einem andern Objekt nicht durch den unmglichen Kontakt mit seiner Innenwelt in Beziehung, sondern nur indem ich seine Oberche in einer Weise streife, die sein Innenleben ins Spiel bringt. Genauso wie nur die gegenteiligen Pole von Magneten Kontakt aufnehmen und wie auch nur gegenstzliche Geschlechter allein fruchtbar sind, ist es auch der Fall, das zwei Objekte desselben Typs sich nicht gegenseitig berhren. Direkter Kontakt zwischen sinnlichen Objekten ist ohne ein intentionales Agens unmglich und eine Verbindung zwischen zwei realen ereignet sich nicht, auer durch einen sinnlichen Vermittler. Daraus folgt, dass jeder Kontakt asymmetrisch sein muss. Egal wie tief ich mich in die Welt hinein grabeich begegne nur sinnlichen Gegenstnden und genauso wenig begegnen reale Gegenstnde jemals etwas anderem als meiner eigenen sinnlichen Fassade. Der Schlssel zur stellvertretenden Verursachung liegt darin, dass sich zwei Objekte irgendwie berhren mssen ohne sich zu berhren. Im Falle des sinnlichen Bereichs passiert dies, wenn das intentionale Agens als stellvertretende Ursache fr die Fusion multipler sinnlicher Objekte dient: Eine Fusion, die nur unvollstndig verbleibt, verkrustet mit zurckbleibenden Akzidenzien. Aber im Falle realer Objekte ist der einzige Weg eines zu berhren ohne es zu berhren nur durch Verlockung beschreitbar. Nur hier entkommen wir dem toten Punkt eines bloen Herumwlzens in den Dften der sinnlichen Dinge und begegnen Qualitten, die eher zu einem entfernten signalisierendem Ding gehren als zu einem eischlich Prsentem. Die einzige Mglichkeit reale Objekte in die sinnliche Sphre zu bringen, ist sinnliche Objekte auf so eine Weise zu rekongurieren, dass sie nicht mehr nur lnger in ein Neues fusionieren, wie Teile in ein Ganzes, sondern vielmehr durch die Anspielung auf eine dahinterliegende, tiefe Kraft animiert werden: einem realen Objekt. Das Gravitationsfeld eines realen Gegenstandes muss 239

Speculations III irgendwie in das existierende sinnliche Feld einfallen. So wie ich der stellvertretende Link zwischen zwei sinnlichen Objekten bin, ist der verlockende Baum die stellvertretende Verbindung zwischen mir und dem realen Baum. Die genaue Dynamik dieses Prozesses verdient eine ausgedehntere Behandlung, aber dennoch ist etwas Ungewhnliches oensichtlich geworden. Die Trennung eines Dinges von seinen Eigenschaften ist nicht lnger ein lokales Phnomen der menschlichen Erfahrung, stattdessen aber die Wurzel aller Beziehungen zwischen allen realen Objekten, Kausalrelationen eingeschlossen. Verlockung, in anderen Worten, gehrt zur Ontologie als ganzer und nicht zur speziellen Metaphysik der tierischen Wahrnehmung. Relationen zwischen allen realen Objekten, inklusive geistloser Dreckklumpen, ereignen sich nur durch eine Form der Anspielung. Aber insofern wir Verlockung mit einem sthetischen Eekt identiziert haben, bedeutet dies, dass die sthetik zur ersten Philosophie wird.


Speculative Realism
After nitude, and beyond? A vade mecum
Louis Morelle Translated by Leah Orth with the assistance of Mark Allan Ohm, Jon Cogburn, and Emily Beck Cogburn Introduction: Does speculative realism even exist? resented as the first significant movement in continental philosophy since structuralism, speculative realism (SR) vociferously announces the end of correlationism and anthropocentrism in philosophy in favor of a speculative turn. By accommodating things, matter, science, and the real qua objects as important as (if not more so than) language, thought, the phenomenal, and the social, SR has garnered attention and criticism from all sides these past few years. Speculative Realism was originally the title of a conference in 2007 that brought together four lesser-known but promising philosophers, and then it subsequently spread like wildre via the Internet through blogs and open-access publishers, in addition to the traditional journal articles, books, colloquia, conferences and other ocial channels of academia. It has now become a legitimate subject of scholarship, taught in certain departments of contemporary philosophy and aesthetics and acquiring a section on the website Philpapers.1 And yet, what is SR? For SR seems to have become, in



Speculations III Anglo-Saxon continental circles, a buzzword, one of these fashionable terms whose meaning is obscured the more it spreads. Originally naming a philosophically diverse core of young philosophers seeking to emphasize themes that have become relatively marginal in continental philosophy such as metaphysical speculation, the inorganic, or the absolute, and united by a common refusal to attend solely to textual objects or phenomenal experience, this vague designation has sparked a diuse desire among continental intellectuals to break with some presuppositions inherited from previous generations. Crystallizing a Zeitgeist, the term has lost its specicity, becoming the generic name for all those among the philosophical young guard who are laying claim to a new metaphysics. The undertaking of this expos is therefore risky on several accounts, since it concerns the state of a current of thought with a conceptual solidity and durability that may appear uncertain at rst glance. I will certainly not strive to regulate the correct or incorrect use of the term speculative realism, nor make it strictly historical, but rather attempt to oer a concise list of the positions, arguments, and concepts at work among the founding practitioners of SR, beginning from what they have in common. My preliminary hypothesis is therefore the following: it is possible to discover a nontrivial philosophical core of SR. The verication or refutation of this hypothesis will settle one way or the other all related questions about SR, its future, its actual importance, and its ephemeral or fashionable character. With these preliminary precautions in mind, we can begin by studying the central question: what are the common characteristics of SR? Evidently, this cohesiveness must rst be sought in the only agreed upon reference point for these philosophers: correlationism. If we refer to Quentin Meillassouxs original denition:


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism

By correlation we mean the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other. We will henceforth call correlationism any current of thought which maintains the unsurpassable character of the correlation so dened.2

The term refers to the tendency of Western philosophy since Kant to base all philosophical discourse on conditions of knowledge and to reject metaphysical propositions since they involve freedom from reference to experience, particularly phenomenal experience. More precisely, it seeks to point out the renement that correlationism brings to idealism, namely, that we do not reduce everything to a single origin, but to a dual relation (subject-object, Dasein-Being, etc.) from which escape is impossible. This improvement is intended to provide philosophy with a foolproof protection from any realist or metaphysical illusion. It does not change the thrust of the thesis, to reduce every real being to being dependent on the relation to an originary ground, which is itself invariably reduced to an anthropological determination (whether of experience or language). This condensed description of the most criticized aspects of correlationism (it is, after all, an intrinsically polemical concept) is more or less common to all the philosophers identied with speculative realism. None of them, however, solely subscribe to this general characterization; by studying them closely one can distinguish extremely acute deviations. In fact, the problem is understanding which element, which assumption the correlation is based on (the correlationist two-step, as Meillassoux calls it) and how correlationism should be characterized. We can say that the challenge is to give substantial meaning, proper content, to the undetermined form of correlationism outlined by Meillassoux in After Finitude by linking it to a fundamental source or error. However, according to the nature of the diagnosed error, the
2 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008), 5.


Speculations III excesses of correlationism accepted as symptomatic reveal diseases of a very dierent sort. For two of these philosophers, the problem resides in the relation between ontology and epistemology, between being and knowledge. For Ray Brassier, the problem of correlationism is found in the dissolution of the barrier between metaphysics and epistemology. Indeed, by reducing all possible knowledge to a singular apprehension determined by the nature of a fundamental correlation, correlationism contributes to the reduction of every factual proposition, every meaning, to a particular standpoint cut o from any universality. It is therefore impossible to single out a solid epistemological criterionthis impossibility, which Brassier most strongly opposes, is due to misconstruing a contingent relation as a fundamental feature of reality, typically, but not exclusively, subjective or phenomenal experience.3 In contrast, for Graham Harman, the problem is the reduction of every statement to its epistemological preconditions, that is to say, to human knowledge; the original sin of correlationism is the implicit presupposition of the superiority of the epistemological relation of knowledge over all other relations.4

3 Correlationism is subtle: it never denies that our thoughts or utterances aim at or intend mind-independent or language-independent realities; it merely stipulates that this apparently independent dimension remains internally related to thought and language. Thus contemporary correlationism dismisses the problematic of skepticism, and of epistemology more generally, as an antiquated Cartesian hang-up. Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 53.

Graham Harman, The Quadruple Object (Washington: Zero Books, 2011), chapter 3. Also: Correlationism arbitrarily treats the human/world relation as philosophically more important than any object/object relation. In correlationism, human and world are the sole realities and are mutually determined by their permanent rapport. Graham Harman, Prince of Networks (Melbourne: re.press, 2009), 176, 185.


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism The other two philosophers believe it is essential to search for a solution in the relation between thought and the absolute. Iain Hamilton Grant sees the correlationist error in the confusion between the structure of knowledge (the Kantian transcendental) and its dynamic preconditions, which can be reconstructed from the structure, but are not found within it.5 Finally, for Quentin Meillassoux, correlationism errs by ignoring the intrinsic possibility of a relation between thought and the absolute, which is revealed to be the absolute character of contingency. We are thus dealing with versions of the same concept that are, if not opposed, at the very least clearly distinct. Moreover, it is possible to articulate the dierences by demonstrating that the speculative realists recapitulate certain elements of correlationism, while at the same time rejecting a central element of it. In other words, we can identify, in each of their positions, elements that partially validate the correlationist position. While keeping this in mind in each of the following sections, it will be necessary to elucidate precisely how each position is anti-correlationist, and, perhaps more importantly, how some of their theses are implicitly drawn from correlationism. Nevertheless, one may certainly be tempted to think that this diversity seems to clearly constitute evidence against a cohesiveness of SR, since nobody seems to even agree on the nature of the problem to be tackled. Does it still make sense, then, to discuss a cohesiveness based on a mere rejection of an idea? I think so, insofar as this denial and the disagreements that it entails make signicant philosophical debate between theorists possible, although it is clear that the
5 The Idea is external to the thought that has it, the thought is external to the thinker that has it, the thinker is external to the nature that produces both the thinker and the thought and the Idea. Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and Quentin Meillassoux, Speculative Realism, in Collapse, Vol. III, 340.


Speculations III unity thereby produced is a weakened one. One can make an historical analogy here: just as the rejection of Kantian and Hegelian idealism gave rise to currents as diverse as Peirces and James pragmatism,6 the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, ordinary language philosophy, and phenomenology; in the same way the rejection of correlationism enables the birth of heterogeneous philosophical currents capable of communicating with one another. This is due to the fact that the rejection of correlationism remains a topic of discussion and a project common to all these currents, even though disagreement reigns over the eective content of the project. Despite the vagueness of the positive content, it can be formulated. Rejection of correlationism implies the truth of at least parts of modern naturalism as exemplied by Meillassouxs concept of ancestrality. The problem then becomes the same as with correlationism: what is the truth that naturalism supercially manifests? For Brassier, naturalism means complete materialism; for Harman, one must go beyond naturalism to reach an ontology where all levels of the world would be equally real; for Grant, nature as a power of creation and irreducible transformation becomes the absolute. It is thus apparent that the rejection of correlationism is full of consequences, and this allows one to say quite seriously that speculative realism signs the birth certicate of a possible continental metaphysics. A metaphysics rst, because introducing the term correlationism into philosophy shifts the presuppositions correlationism rests on from the status of obvious facts to questionable and debatable points. Thus, correlationism is no longer a rejection of metaphysics, but one metaphysics among others, an additional metaphysics. As such, all attempts (for example, along the lines of Heidegger and Derrida) of an overcoming of metaphysics7 are rejected as obsolete,
6 Jean Wahl, The Pluralist Philosophies of England and America, trans. Fred Rothwell (London: Open Court, 1925). 7 Pierre Aubenque, Faut-il dconstruire la mtaphysique? (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009).


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism not so much because they are false, but because they rely on a disavowed metaphysics. Bypassing certain usual precautions, we can then reinterpret certain theses with uncertain status in continental philosophy as properly metaphysical propositions. For instance, when, at the end of The Earth Does Not Move, Husserl postulates the transcendental ego that precedes and remains independent of the existence of every living being,8 or when Heidegger asserts that the historicity of Being involves literal metamorphoses of it, transforming from ancient Greece and medieval theology to modernity,9 are we not thus dealing with propositions supported by metaphysical entities every bit as speculative as Spinozist substance or Leibnizian monads? The speculative realists abandon the suspicion associated with metaphysical activity: rather than being required to justify its metaphysical approach, or examine its endless possibility, we must simply tackle the problem, since we cannot escape it10 There is room then for metaphysics, and rational discussion between conicting positions, where argumentation and refutation cannot be evaded. Every metaphysical attempt is prima facie legitimate, because of the mere fact that no absolute prohibition can be put in place prior to discussion. It is true that the form metaphysics must take still remains vague, especially with respect to what it must abandon and what it can keep, precisely because it must rst be discussed,
8 See also his armation, in the Ideas, that God would perceive not the things in themselves, but a things adumbrative perception. Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: First Book, General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology, trans. F. Kersten (The Hague: Marinus Nijho, 1982), 43. 9 Lee Braver, A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007), 270-272.

Heidegger seeks a way out of metaphysics. He endeavors to clear a space where he can evade its grasp. But Whitehead doesnt yearn for a return before, or for a leap beyond, metaphysics. Much more subversively, I think, he simply does metaphysics in his own way, inventing his own categories and working through his own problems. Steven Shaviro, Without Critera: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (Cambridge ma: mit Press, 2009), x.


Speculations III proven.11 In this way SR has been hailed as a liberation by those who rejoiced in seeing the possibility reestablished of discussing a thing as something other than a constitutive impasse of thought, this famous nitude. To paraphrase Harman, a pleasing aspect of this metaphysical revival is that while SRs followers may run the risk of uttering falsities or nonsense, at least they are saying something, that is, they maintain precise theses and defend them through considerations and argument, rather than cloaking themselves in the pathos of a principle of undecidability. Continental, then, for three reasons. The rst reason, which is not insignicant, is that most of SRs participants come out of Anglo-Saxon academia, where continental philosophy constitutes a specic and autonomous eld in the margins of mainstream, analytical philosophy, which most people see as philosophy tout court, while in France for example the situation is exactly reversed. For this reason, we should not be surprised that they choose to identify themselves as continentals. Second, because correlationism can be presented as the unifying characteristic of the quasi-totality of what had been coupled with the term continental philosophy, Bergson, Whitehead, and Deleuze, the only notable (although this is certainly a subject of discussion) exceptions to this unity, can be considered the precursors of SR. The almost completely denitive character of the Kantian turn in the eyes of classic continental philosophers (i.e., the endorsement of correlationism) provides evidence for this historical argument. This is developed in detail in Lee Bravers A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism, which has became a collective reference SR supporters use in interpreting the philosophical tradition. In this text, Braver identies a continuous line of thought from Kant to Derrida through other major gures (Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault), where antirealism12 develops in a more and more radical manner, from

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 109-110. Composed of six possible cumulative theses: rejection of the truth-



Louis Morelle Speculative Realism a common conceptual scheme that serves as the foundation for the various options adopted. This extremely ambitious reconstruction is interesting in that it provides a common framework for the evolution of continental philosophy,13 presenting it as a coherent project, which is precisely what SR seeks to reject. Finally, the metaphysics that SR produces is certainly a continental metaphysics to the extent that it does not depart from another central point in the continental tradition, namely, the problematic status given to rationality, in particular discursive rationality. It is for this reason that typically continental philosophers such as Heidegger, Laruelle, Deleuze, or even Derrida (according to Martin Hgglund), far from being dismissed, are quite acceptable references in these metaphysical debates. The paradoxical idea of a metaphysics that does not seek to ignore objections to it but to incorporate their contributions, makes the realism in question speculative, since it tries to develop specic modes of thought and foundation, taking seriously the inevitable intertwining of reason with other forms of thought, apprehension, and existence. Of course, this last point is highly problematic for the justication of doctrines resulting from such a process (we will have the opportunity to return to this), but it is crucial to understand how SR is very much a continuation of the continental line of thought. In this text, I will attempt to present the main threads of SR. I will not concentrate as much on the proposed renewal of subjects of philosophical inquiry (thus leaving aside the insistent call to return to the real, to focus on material objects or the contributions of natural science or the social sciences), but rather on the various metaphysical and ontological alternatives that underlie this turn (the central anthology of SR is titled The Speculative Turn, echoing the
correspondence, of independence from the mind, ontological pluralism, rejection of bivalence, active role of the subject relative to its knowledge, plurality of the subject.
13 As well as a framework for communication between analytics and continentals.


Speculations III linguistic turn). I will also consider the arguments, concepts, and points of debate that emerge, as this is the heart of the subject. I will successively present Harmans object-oriented ontology, Brassiers nihilism, and nally Grants variety of neo-vitalism.14 I. Object-Oriented Ontology: Graham Harman (Latour / Heidegger) Variants: Levi Bryant, Bruno Latour Correlationism: Every apprehension and every relation is essentially dierent from the object it aims at (the tree that I think is by denition dierent from the tree itself). Anti-correlationism: there is no fundamental ontological dierence in the relations between subject and object and the relations between objects. Object-oriented ontology (OOO)15 asserts the reality and fundamentality of singular individuals, baptized objects. An object is dened as a substantial singularity endowed with
I leave aside Quentin Meillassoux, rstly because Martin Fortier has more than adequately introduced his work in the seminar in which this paper was initially presented (now archived at http://www.atmoc.fr/seances/; scroll down to the seventh presentation in the series for Fortiers talk), secondly, because, unlike other currents, Meillassoux does not make a school, at least to my knowledge, for reasons due to human contingency (non-appearance of LInexistence divine), and probably, also to the very singular character of his thought.
14 15 [In Morelles translation, lontologie objectuelle, literally, philosophy oriented towards the object (Tristan Garcia translates this literally in French as philosophie-oriente-objet). The term dates from 1999, and its variant (OOO) from 2008. The ocial translation [in French] is philosophie centre sur lobjet [philosophy centered on the object]. Graham Harman, LObjet quadruple, trans. Olivier Dubouclez (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010). The term adopted [by Morelle, i.e., ontologie objectuelle] is personal, and responds to criteria of simplicity and euphony.]


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism unity and irreducible to the whole of relations that relate to it (what Harman summarizes by the expression unied and autonomous16). OOO is therefore an attempt to argue that the concept of substance is still as indispensible to metaphysics as it is to every other theory and discourse. The domain of objects includes: physical objects (a quark) and theoretical objects (concepts), natural objects (a dog) and articial objects (a computer), intangible objects (a multinational) and concrete objects, real objects and imaginary objects. The central claim of OOO is that these are all on equal footing. And the concept of object has the concept of relation as its correlate, either determining the object independently, or on the interior of another object (the car that I observe and the car that the road supports are one and the same object, but apprehended through two distinct relations: vision and spatial copresence). Yet these relations are not dealing with the car itself, in its proper being, but with a version of this: the visible car and the heavy car. The real car itself is inaccessible to every relation. To be real, it must exist by itself, from itself, and not by another thing: the reality of a thing, whatever it may be, is its withdrawal (and for this reason relations only deal with second-order objects, equivalent to Husserlian intentional objects, distinct from real objects: Harman baptizes them sensual objects). The concept of withdrawal is directly inherited from Heidegger. But whereas the German philosopher attributed withdrawal to Being alone, denying it to beings immediately accessible, present at hand entities, OOO claims that withdrawal is the essential characteristic of every reality qua individual reality. In fact, because it equates reality with withdrawal, every negation of the fundamental feature of objects is, in eect, the negation of their reality. If objects were in some way eects in an order of things distinct from themselves, they would quite simply not exist. Consequently, a radical position, that denies the reality of objects,17 is equivalent in the end to a
16 17

Harman, Prince of Networks, 154.

Harman, Prince of Networks; Harman, The Quadruple Object, chapter I:


Speculations III more or less well-disguised monism, essentially returning to a form of correlationism. And yet correlationism only consists in elevating a specic type of relation above all others: the relation between human being and world. In order to maintain a reality full of individual objects, it is necessary to assert that there is no ontological dierence between subject/ object relations and object/object relations. Thus experience and thought are restricted to a particular case of the universal category of relation: their emergence can only be envisioned as one leap among others, purely ontic, and never ontological.18 The problem that remains is knowing how each relationof causality, of subjectivity, or of mereological compositionis metaphysically possible, which leads to the renewal of the ancient problem of occasionalism.19 What is essential, however, is that the mystery is not limited to the sphere of humanity or sentience. In addition, perception, qua relation, is necessarily a caricature, but a legitimate caricature, present on all levels of the cosmos; from there perceptual realism dissolves, since no object is present in any relation, but always in the reduced, intelligible form given to experience. We are faced with a paradox: objects are precisely as they are given (qua sensual objects) and precisely other than they are given (qua real objects). OOO is presented as an ontological realism and an epistemological anti-realism, a position that sparks a number of internal diculties. Indeed, as we have said, since there is no dierence between subject/object relations and object/object relations, in Husserlian language they are both intentional (because they take place between singular objects).20 To contest this thesis
Undermining and Overmining.
18 Harman, The Quadruple Object, chapter VIII: Levels and Psyche. See also Graham Harman, Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (Chicago: Open Court, 2005), chapter XII: Some Implications; the emergence of perception is presented there as a simple case among other gradations composing the history of the universe. 19

Harman, The Quadruple Object, chapter V: Indirect Causation. Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (Chi-



Louis Morelle Speculative Realism would mean denying the specic character of each interaction, namely, that it depends upon the nature of the objects in play. For example, obviously a table does not enter into a similar relation with a feather falling on it as it does with a heavy stone that is capable of smashing it. We notice, however, that it is through Husserl that Harman defends this thesis; in fact, his refutation of empiricism in the Logical Investigations uses an interpretation of the sensible as composed of immanent or intentional objects.21 But such a theoretical gesture is not made without raising a number of diculties. Indeed, activating a distinctive category of experience, intentionality, in order to attribute it to every relation qua relation, is double-edged; on one hand, it seems to exhaust the logic of the decentering of ontology by attributing what seems to only be a privilege of human perception to every interaction between objects of all sorts; on the other, the specter of what one can call the sophism of the projection, that is, the idea of covertly reducing what is called ontology to only human subjectivity, becomes a looming danger. The type of position defended by OOO is at times called a at ontology,22 and the metaphor is here quite meaningful: by attening the ontological terrain, and as a result forcing the rethinking of every type of existence and relation on the same level, the problem immediately arises of knowing which level this is, how to succeed in determining its essence, and above all, whether it constitutes a form more or less disguised by projection in the way we just introduced. Therefore, we are again confronted with a particular version of the absolute like the night in which all cows are black. Such a diculty was already present in a precursor of SR such as Whitehead, who admits to identifying his concept
cago: Open Court, 2002), 121, 220; Graham Harman, Intentional Objects for Non-Humans, Lecture given at the Universit de Toulouse le Mirail, France, November 18 2008.
21 Harman, Guerrilla Metaphysics, chapter II and 154-158; Harman, The Quadruple Object, chapter II. 22

Term borrowed from Manuel De Landa, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002), 47.


Speculations III of prehension (that is to say, every relation between entities) with the concept of thought or of idea:
With the purpose of obtaining a one-substance cosmology, prehensions are a generalization from Descartes mental cogitations, and from Lockes ideas, to express the most concrete mode of analysis applicable to every grade of individual actuality.23

This question, which can be called the problem of decentering, is especially troublesome with respect to OOO, because it cannot itself be envisioned, since the will to abolish all ontological privilege connected to human subjectivity precludes any conceptual account of the modalities of human subjectivity, and therefore cannot avoid making its central idea unclear. It thus fails to conceive of subjectivity as a mere particularization of ontology, that is to say, as something other than a hidden model that would dissolve the decentering. For this reason, it is not satisfying to conceive of alterity solely via a fundamental withdrawal, despite Harmans call for polypsychism as a remedy to panpsychist excesses, claiming that only the latter falls prey to the sophism of projection. This is because, in both cases, the relational variations begin from the model of human subjectivity.24 This problem of decentering would involve an incapacity, in the end, to distinguish at ontologies from their correlationist adversaries (see, for example, the literature on the rapprochements between Whitehead and phenomenology, and Pierre Cassou-Nogus recent book, Le bord de lexprience [puf, 2010], dealing explicitly with such a project).
23 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology corr. and ed. David Ray Grin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: Free Press, 1978), 19. 24 Despite the exciting possibility that this opens. On the description of the interior of objects: I would even propose a new philosophical discipline called speculative psychology dedicated to ferreting out the specic psychic reality of earthworms, dust, armies, chalk, and stone (Harman, Prince of Networks, 213). This project is taken seriously by Ian Bogost, who concentrates on technological objects in his Alien Phenomenology, or What Its Like to Be a Thing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism The discussion within SR focuses on the possibility of a valid epistemology starting from the presuppositions of OOO. In order to summarize this debate, it is useful for us to focus on Bruno Latour, and more precisely on his explicitly ontological work, Irreductions, which can be used as a smaller model of OOOs essential propositions on this terrain. Ray Brassier targets it in his article Concept and Objects, with the same goal. In short, Latour is criticized for the complete dissolution of the limits separating real objects from representations; that is, he is guilty of endorsing the impossibility of every notion of the true and false by way of a collapsing of all things into a neutral monism of actants and their mutual trials of strength. Indeed, Latour redraws the epistemological relations of knowledge in pragmatic terms, envisaging representations and concepts, not as detached modes of contemplating established facts, but as relations between actants. As beings of the world these actants not only demand an exercise of force and a material eort in order to be realized, but are an exercise of force themselves: Nothing is knownonly realized (Irreductions, For example, in order to know the chemical properties of a liquid, it is necessary to subject it to diverse trials of composition and decomposition, as in some sort of torture where the liquid actant reveals its characteristics through resistance to confronting forces. A sentence does not hold together because it is true, but because it holds together we say that it is true.25 If concepts have truth, it is because they are things among others and are subject to the same rules of ecacy as any other relation. The reading of Irreductions is extremely disturbing in this regard, because it forces one to consider ideas from a completely desecrated view, yet within the framework of a fully coherent line of reasoning. Yet for Brassier, this actualist conception of ontology only serves to destroy every limit which might allow the separation of valid discourse from fabrication. He accuses
25 Bruno Latour, Irreductions, in The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 2.4.8.


Speculations III Latour of reductionism with regard to epistemology, forming a metaphysics liberated from any demand for justication and argumentation:
the dierence between words and things turns out to be no more than a functional dierence subsumed by the concept of actantthat is to say, it is a merely nominal dierence encompassed by the metaphysical function now ascribed to the metaphor actant.26

Brassiers critique proves problematic, both because it rests on a rather heavy set of presuppositions (see the following section), and because it does not give an account of the ner points of Latours ontology. However, it certainly helps make the problem of Latours at ontology, as well as OOO, very acute as they fail to oer an internal epistemological criterion: why qualify ontological unities as actants rather than as passive subjects of external forces? Thus, the confusion produced by ontological decentering proves to be dicult to eliminate without the risk of falling into a metaphysics with a foundation that would prove, ultimately, irrational. The fundamental problem then consists in noticing how dicult it is to supply it with a true epistemological foundation with the proper tools of OOO. Such a foundation would be the complete loss of OOOs project, hopelessly engulng it in a theory of sense and representation as the point of departure for philosophy. Eectively, the responses of OOOs followers to the objections born from epistemological preoccupations such as Brassiers,
26 Ray Brassier, Concepts and Objects, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, ed. Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman (Melbourne: re.press, 2011), 52. See also: It is instructive to note how many reductions must be carried out in order for irreductionism to get o the ground: reason, science, knowledge, truthall must be eliminated. Of course, Latour has no qualms about reducing reason to arbitration, science to custom, knowledge to manipulation, or truth to force: the veritable object of his irreductionist aatus is not reduction per se, in which he wantonly indulges, but explanation, and the cognitive privilege accorded to scientic explanation in particular. Thus, it is impossible, according to Brassier, to philosophically recontextualize the category of explanation without putting a radical attack in its place, since epistemology is, irrevocably, rst philosophy.


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism or from the relation between the sophism of projection and ontologies of decentering are something like denial, or, in the best case scenario, accusing opposing positions of being victims of idealism.27 On this account, the problem remains unresolved, even if it is not necessarily insoluble. II. Normative nihilism, or transcendental nihilism: Ray Brassier (Churchland/Brandom/Laruelle) Variants: Peter Wolfendale, Martin Hgglund Correlationism: There can only be knowledge and meaning within the limits specied by rationality. Anti-Correlationism: Rationality is independent from any origin situated in subjective experience. The second theoretical side of SR is clearly less unied than the rst since as it does not boast of a distinct conceptual invention theorists could be reunited around. Rather, we are dealing with a current of thought with diverse aspirations and variable forms: transcendental nihilism (Brassier), nonphilosophy (Laruelle), radical atheist materialism (Hgglund), transcendental realism (Brassier, Wolfendale), methodological naturalism, normativism, inferentialism, anti-vitalismThis is not about enumerating labels, and I would not do it if this diversity were not signicant. In fact, the unication of the viewpoint is less about a particular concept or original thesis than allowing the possibility of linking together a number of separate and individually discussed theses. It consists of the following positions:
27 Graham Harman, And I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed, in Environment and Society D: Society and Space, 28 (2010), 772-790; Harman, The Quadruple Object, chapter VIII.


Speculations III (a) Ordinary realism (independence of the world from the mind) (b) Inferentialism (formal autonomy of reason) (c) Scientic realism (the propositions produced by scientic and mathematical method genuinely inform us about the world) (d) Eliminativism concerning experience (the contents of experience do not literally represent any real determination) (e) Materialism (ontological priority of inorganic over organic, of matter over the living) Not only are these compatible, but they also mutually entail one another based on concepts of a reality independent of the mind and reason being tied to truth. The conclusion of nihilism, that is, the inexistence of any meaning inherent to things thus emerges, as the essential truth of the Enlightenment project (the emancipation of Reason).28 In other words, if for Continentals the truth (or, in its stead, what philosophy produces) is supposed to be exciting or grand, and if, for the analytics, to discover it involves making it tedious,29 for
28 An attempt, which I am not entirely satised with, at connecting these theses: Reason, impersonal and formal, is the condition of possibility of all thought and speculation (inferentialism). It compellingly makes possible the rational knowledge of reality (transcendental realism). This knowledge is based on the idea of a reality absolutely independent of thought, and postulated by the already established concept of reason. In turn, this allows a set of substantial deductions about the world, devoid of meaning and harmony between human being and the world, thought and being, facts and values (nihilism). 29 Any eort in philosophy to make the obscure obvious is likely to be unappealing, for the penalty of failure is confusion while the reward of success is banality. Nelson Goodman, The Structure of Appearance (Boston: R. Reidel, 1977). On the continental side, see the concept of image of thought defended by Gilles Deleuze in Dierence and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). As long as were content with criticizing the false, were not bothering anyone (true critique is the criticism of true forms, not false contents. You dont criticize capitalism or imperialism by denouncing their mistakes). Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953-1974 (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2004), 138, or the more systematic defense of rhetoric by Harman in Prince of Networks, 168-174. Let us add (of course) that these characterizations do not constitute value judgments. Here I es-


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism Brassier, the truth proves to be despairing, (even must be, according to the interpretation that we will form) or, more rigorously, violently demystifying. It is the link between these fundamental theses, rather than these theses themselves, that give an identity to this current. It would be largely inaccurate, except for the sake of exposition, to discuss this position only through its eliminativist or scientist aspects, as is often done, since the conceptual framework of the theory is actually much larger.30 That also complicates the task of summarizing this underlying philosophical project in an intelligible way, since one could dedicate (and some indeed have) entire books to each individual thesis. One can quickly give an adequate idea of Brassiers position by contrasting it with another materialist of SR, Quentin Meillassoux. As we have seen with Meillassoux, the discovery of the absence of an ultimate reason for things is that of an absolute:
Instead of laughing or smiling at questions like Where do we come from? or Why do we exist?, we should ponder instead the remarkable fact that the replies From nothing. For nothing really are answers, thereby realizing that these really were questionsand excellent ones at that.31

But if, for Meillassoux, this absence of reason (or principle of unreason) is an absolute fact, in an even more audacious way for Brassier, it is a fact which carries a substantial thesis: the absolute ontological primacy of matter over mind, of death over life.32 Philosophy then becomes the discipline charged with bringing to light the insurmountable truth of extinction.
sentially refer to the dierences in attitude concerning language, rhetoric, and the nature of knowledge produced by philosophy in the two traditions.
30 It would be dicult for standard eliminitavists, la Churchland, not only to refer to, but to admit as acceptable, the philosophical methods drawn from Laruelle, Badiou, or Heidegger... 31

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 110. Brassier, Nihil Unbound, preface.



Speculations III For instance, coming back to the eliminativist thesis, if one supposes its literal truth,33 then one infers from it that the ultimate meaning of this truth is that thought and experience allow access to no real determination. Therefore, it passes from grass is not really, in itself, green, to our experience of grass is only a secondary eect and foreign to grass itself. Ultimately Brassiers anti-correlationism consists in its literal inversion: the correlate of thought is not being, but non-being. This project, and the theses that it proposes, can seem excessively heavy, arbitrary, or absurd (a sort of philosophical Houellebecq). This would be the case indeed if there were no method to support this ambition. And yet one of them exists, found principally by Brassier, in the French philosopher Franois Laruelle.34 I will certainly not venture to summarize the thoughts of this rather arduous author, but will quickly present the part which concerns us here: Laruelles project involves replacing philosophy with non-philosophy, i.e., the systematic opposition to every philosophical attempt to use thought to add anything to the at discoveries of scienticity and the radically immanent presence of the Real. The Real is always present, always accessible, but, since it is not an idea or a concept, the nature of philosophy is to perpetually miss it. Indeed, the sin of philosophy is its inaugural Decision to understand the Real (or the One) by something other than it (by idea, intuition, language, etc.), to divide itself from it in order to understand it. Philosophy does nothing except develop this circular Decision. All the subsequent work of philosophy involves the desperate attempt to rejoin what has been separated, forming a synthesis from an always-arbitrary control-point.35 This negative thesis, which corresponds to a formal and generalized version of denunciations of meta33 We understand what we suppose to be true, if demonstrated philosophically to be true. I will return to this. That is, if we suppose it philosophically demonstrated to be true. 34 Hgglund makes use of Derrida in his approach, seeking to unearth the constructive tools of a radical atheist materialism within deconstruction. 35 What Laurelle calls the method of transcendental deduction Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 123.


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism physics by Heidegger or Derrida,36 permits abolishing every attempt to think about the world apart from the insurmountable facts of the real that are proposed to us.37 To think of the Real as separate from thought requires a non-Decisional philosophy that, with one of the most painful lexical choices of the twentieth century, Laruelle baptizes non-philosophy. We now return to eliminativism (which is not the only thesis of Brassiers nihilism, but is rather useful for us as a guiding thread here): the most contemporary opposition against eliminativism involves categorizing it as nonsense, either through self-contradiction, or because it is incapable of giving a ground for itself, and must resort to a form of, at the very least, insucient pragmatism.38 Laruelles method, reviewed by Brassier, accepts philosophical irreducibility from the fact of the absence of correlation between being and thoughtnot only the empirical, but the ontological truth of the consequences of eliminativism: We gain access to the structure of reality via a machinery of conception which extracts intelligible indices from a world that is not designed to be intelligible and is not originarily infused with meaning.39
36 37

[Laruelles] innovation is fundamentally formal, Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 148.

Metaphysics conceived of the autonomy of the object in terms of the model of substance. But successive critiques of the hypostatization of substance from Kant to Heidegger have undermined the plausibility of metaphysical (substance based) realism, thereby securing the triumph of correlationism. Laruelles work challenges this correlationist consensus by proposing a version of transcendental realism wherein the object is no longer conceived of as a substance but rather as a discontinuous cut in the fabric of ontological synthesis. It is no longer thought that determines the object, whether through representation or intuition, but rather the object that seizes thought and forces it to think it, or better, according to it. Ibid., 149.
38 Teed Rockwell, Beyond Eliminative Materialism: Some Unnoticed Implications of Churchlands Pragmatic Pluralism, Revised version, October 1998, unpublished article. Accessed May 31 2011: http://users.sfo.com/~mcmf/ beyondem.html 39 Ray Brassier, Concepts and Objects, 4 (Our emphasis). Compare this with Churchlands declaration: it is far from obvious that truth is either the primary or the principal product of [cognitive] activity. Rather, its function would appear to be the ever more nely tuned administration of the organisms behaviour. Paul M. Churchland, A Neurocomputational Perspective: The


Speculations III Brassiers other method of supporting his position consists in maintaining that every attempt to deny the objectivitynihilism correlation, through vitalism or an overturning of the category of objectivity, is based on an illegitimate concept of reason or thought that exceeds what can be defended by reason. The paradigmatic example here would be that of Bergson, whose philosophy of life celebrates novelty and relies heavily on a limited conception of reason, the latter being marginalized in favor of intuition. Against such a current of thought (which brings together Deleuze, Whitehead, Heidegger, Hegel, and all the metaphysicians of SR), Brassier resorts to a deconstruction inspired by Wilfrid Sellars and his critique of the myth of the given. The myth of the given is the idea that there is a certain stratum of experience which is somehow making a truth claim and which is somehow more basic than any acquired conceptual system.40 For Brassier, all the vitalist or phenomenological claims of conceptual priority for lived experience and the non-conceptual over conceptual reason are reduced to nothingness, either through critique of the myth of the given,41 or through a prior reduction to a form of correlationism undermined by this critique: In the absence of any physicalist corrective to vitalist hubris, biocentrism leads infallibly to noocentrism.42 Thus, every appeal to intellectual or sensual intuition is humiliated and rejected in favor of an irreducible attachment to an impersonal concept of reason borrowed from Robert Brandom (Making It Explicit). This rejection is not only formal, but also implies a substantial conclusion, namely the priority of death over
Nature of Mind and the Structure of Science (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1989), 150, cited in Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 19.
40 Wilfrid Sellars, Notre Dame Lectures, 1969-1986, transcr. Pedro Amaral, 249. Accessed July 1 2012: http://zimmer.csufresno.edu/~pedroa/Wilfrid%20 Sellars%20Notre%20Dame%20Lectures.pdf 41

Ray Brassier, Bergson, Lived Experience, and the Myth of the Given, Lecture given at colloquium in Zagreb, June 18 2011. Brassier, Nihil Unbound, 200.



Louis Morelle Speculative Realism life: The living is only a form of what is dead, and a very rare form (Nietzsche).43 The omnipresence of extinction in the very heart of life and thought is the highest truth. How, then, can this conception be critiqued? The most obvious problem resides in its very specic usage of philosophical rationality that claims to discover some subtractionist truthsboth substantial and negative truths (namely, nihilism)by a formal method. It is uncertain whether such a position is tenable, at least according to the precision with which Brassier guards himself. So, more generally, his position is based on an emphatic interpretation of the nature of the ideas of objectivity and rationality, which in their proper form would have profound substantial content;44 yet this method, though proving denitively powerful when it comes to refutation, appears much weaker when it comes to defending its own theses. Moreover, the arguments against him, incidentally, are less concerned with the extremely technical metaphysical presuppositions borrowed from Badiou and Laruelle, than his reprise of scientic realism (and his eliminativist conclusions) via inferentialism, titled transcendental realism. The metaphysical tit-for-tat response (from Harman to Brassier) consisted in showing how attempts to identify scientic rationality with ontology were doomed to failure because they themselves rely on an extremely unsophisticated metaphysics equivalent to a nave process-relationalism (cf. the next section). On a broader level, Harman objects to Brassier because he absolutizes scientic methods and results. This, argues Harman, does not constitute the deeper message of the Enlightenment, but simply underwrites a form of correlationism, since this arms that the conditions of possibility of knowledge delimit the framework of ontology.45

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, ed. Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), III, 109. As Brassier summarizes it: I am a nihilist because I believe in truth.

44 45

Cf. Brassier, Concepts and Objects, 1, and Harman, I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed.


Speculations III It seems that the question remains open since the rejection of the position (normative nihilism) involves an ontology close to OOO (and inversely), because the two tend to mutually refute each other. We will therefore examine what makes up the last type of position. III. Neo-Vitalisms: Iain Hamilton Grant (Schelling/Deleuze/Whitehead) Variants: Manuel De Landa, Steven Shaviro Correlationism: No essential dierence exists between the material and the ideal. Anti-correlationism: It is impossible to reduce the origin of existence to properties or determinations that are individually identiable or can be apprehended by an experience. The last current of SR is not the easiest to approach, on the one hand, because alternate versions abound (especially inspired by Deleuze and Whitehead46), and, on the other hand, because its original representative, Iain Hamilton Grant, expresses his thought in a way that is dicult to access, by conning it to the narrow space of Schellingian studies. In fact, for Grant, the abandonment of active nature, which characterizes modern philosophy in general and correlationism in particular (its aphysia, or forgetting of Nature), found a worthy adversary in F. W. J. Schellings Naturphilosophie. His essentially historical work demonstrates the existence of nontrivial thought about nature in Schelling, and he argues that it is irreducible to any other philosophical alternative. In doing so, he arrives at a vitalist version of idealism. By idealism, he means:

I will not linger here on the Whiteheadians, such as Steven Shaviro, in order to simplify this introduction somewhat.


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism (a) Platonist realism (the Idea exists just as much as thought and things), (b) a concept of matter as active and substantial rather than as a mere negation of form,47 and (c) relativity of the existence of singular things, commensurate with a dynamism more profound than the things themselves (Nature). Idealism is the condition, (a) of every metaphysics, (b) of every true materialism, and (c) of a realism that is not nave and essentialist. We obtain the only tenable realism by reuniting these three aspects: a speculative realism, in the sense Schelling gave to speculative physics. What matters for Grant is to be opposed to contemporary negations of these three fundamental theses. e Idea within correlation to the thinking subject, endorsing the incessant survival of a neoFichteanism against the Schellingianism he defends. Against (b), the Aristotelian privilege accorded to form, resulting in a negative conception of matter against Platos active matter. The other forms of speculative realism do not literally subscribe to (a), but, are not, strictly speaking, opposed to it (above all object-oriented ontology, which accepts the reality of concepts as objects); by contrast, it is with (b) and (c) that the dierence is the clearest. First, concerning (b), there is no doubt that OOO and transcendental nihilism are clearly devoted to the autonomy of form over matter. For Brassier, the negation of (b) is twofold: there is a reality of form, since its autonomy with respect to every determination is the condition of existence of reason and thought, uprooted from every intuition; but there is also a primary reality of inert matter, since Brassier completely adopts the concept of inert matter that Grant rejects and makes the ultimate truth of ontology from it.

Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling (London: Continuum, 2006), 47.


Speculations III For Harman, who does not hide his Aristotelian heritage on this point,48 the presence of formalism is rather patent: the world is structured in terms of objects, and, since we cannot know the full reality of objects, then strictly speaking only their generic form is accessible to ontology. Yet this form is universal and identical for all objects. Harman would completely agree with Grant on the fact that it is necessary to reject the concept of physical matter as the fundamental category of ontology (i.e., physicalism), because such a concept is only the pretext for a hidden idealism.49 However, he does not support the concept of active matter, but only the idea of objects being active. The last point is, in reality, the true grounds for opposition between the various neo-vitalisms, (whether they are inherited from Schelling, as in Grant, from Deleuze, or from Bergson) and OOO. Active matter is rejected by OOO not because of a taste for an inert conception of matter, but because active matter deprives singular objects of their reality by situating activity, novelty, and, in the end, reality, outside of objects in a mysterious substrate. Critiquing Jane Bennetts vital materialism, Harman thus declares:
Ultimately, what is real in her new Nicene Creed is a pluriverse not of many things, but of one matter-energy that is traversed by heterogeneities. The danger for Bennett, as for Deleuze and Deleuzes Spinoza, is that objects are liberated from slavery to the human gaze only to fall into a new slavery to a single matter-energy that allows for no strife between autonomous individual things.50

Graham Harman, Aristotle With a Twist, in Speculative Medievalisms: A Laboratory-Atelier. Edited by Nicola Masciandro and Eileen A. Joy. (Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, forthcoming 2012) To dene a thing as material stu that occupies space is to reduce it to a system of coordinates and measurable properties. Though it may seem that matter is autonomous, it is only autonomous insofar as humans dene it according to certain properties, not in its own right. Harman, Prince of Networks, 141. See also 107-112, as well as Harman, I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed.


50 Graham Harman, Autonomous objects: a review of Jane Bennetts Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things, New Formations 71 (Spring 2011), 125-130.


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism Thus, it is because (b) and (c) are closely linked in Grants idealism and contemporary neo-vitalisms that OOO is opposed to the idea of matter dened as active. On the other side, the neo-vitalists are opposed to the existence of individual things and prefer a form of non-individuated monism, because these things would be inextricably tied to a concept of a manipulable and calculable thing: [we] view the world as if it consisted not of an ever-changing ow of time but of a calculable set of things, laments Bennett.51 Such a ow, a process, is at the center of vitalist ontologies,52 and is criticized very insistently by the other SR participants.53 Either we are literally dealing with a unique dynamism (or the beyond of unity) that produces the individuality of things, in which case it becomes dicult to see how things have ever been able to be individuated from an entirely indeterminate apeiron); or, we assert that only non-individual dynamism is real, and that separate things are only a product of a human sensation,54 in which case we are dealing with an idealism that privileges subjectivity over the real being of things. Or, nally, we take recourse to hybrid concepts such as Gilbert Simondons preindividual singularities or De Landas
51 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 77. 52 To take the most obvious example, in some realist approaches the world is thought to be composed of fully formed objects whose identity is guaranteed by their possession of an essence, a core set of properties that denes what these objects are. Deleuze is not a realist about essences, or any other transcendent entity, so in his philosophy something else is needed to explain what gives objects their identity and what preserves this identity through time. Briey, this something else is dynamical processes. Some of these processes are material and energetic, some are not, but even the latter remain immanent to the world of matter and energy. De Landa, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, 2-3. 53 Harman, Prince of Networks, 160-161; Tristan Garcia, Forme et objet: un trait des choses (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011), 46. 54 The distinct outlines which we see in an object, and which give it its individuality, are only the design of a certain kind of inuence that we might exert on a certain point of space: it is the plan of our eventual actions that is sent back to our eyes, as though by a mirror, when we see the surfaces and edges of things. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, 12.


Speculations III heterogeneous continuum in order to explain such a passage, although the consistency of such concepts is greatly diminished by their synthetic nature and they simply name a problem, rather than solving it. This is the main challenge that all vitalist, and, more broadly, panpsychist, positions must face, and that emerges in contemporary continental metaphysics: to show how their concepts are both sound and capable of overcoming poor materialism. How to conclude after multiple back and forths, tentative philosophical hypotheses, and their repeated rebuttals? Ultimately, what can be said about speculative realism as such, which appears so divided and dispersed? The best response I have at my disposal to these two questions consists in maintaining that, despite the incomplete or problematic nature of the theories proposed, they all contain a philosophical, and perhaps an even larger existential, core. This seems to be the essential contribution of speculative realism: namely, that realism cannot be a trivial or obvious position, but conversely, a reality that is not a pragmatic expedient requires important ontological commitments in order to retain the specicity of the real in relation to every representation. In a word, that realism has a price. Bibliography of Speculative Realism General Introduction
The order of these texts is a suggested reading order. Bryant, Levi, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman, Towards a Speculative Philosophy, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). Saldanha, Arun, Back to the Great Outdoors: Speculative Realism as Philosophy of Science, in Cosmos and History 5.2 (2009), 304-321. Brassier, Ray, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, and Quentin Meillas-


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism

soux, Speculative Realism, in Collapse 3 (2007): 306-449. Ennis, Paul, Post-Continental Voices: Selected Interviews (Winchester: Zero Books, 2010).

Major Works

Brassier, Ray, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Braver, Lee, A Thing of this World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007). Bryant, Levi, Nick Srnicek, and Graham Harman, ed., The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2010). De Landa, Manuel, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2002). Garcia, Tristan, Forme et objet: un trait des choses (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011). Grant, Iain Hamilton, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling (London: Continuum, 2008). Hgglund, Martin, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008). Harman, Graham, Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (Melbourne: re.press, 2009). , The Quadruple Object (Winchester: Zero Books, 2011). , Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011). Laruelle, Franois, Philosophies of Dierence: A Critical Introduction to NonPhilosophy, trans. Rocco Gangle (London: Continuum, 2010). Latour, Bruno, Irreductions, in The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). , Graham Harman, and Peter Erdlyi, The Prince and the Wolf: Latour and Harman at the LSE (Winchester: Zero Books, 2011). Meillassoux, Quentin, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2007). Shaviro, Steven, Without Critera: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2009). Wolfendale, Pete, Transcendental Realism, 20 May 2010, Available at: http:// deontologistics.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/transcendental-realism/


Speculations III Journals

Collapse: http://urbanomic.com/publications.php Cosmos and History: http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal Speculations: Journal of Speculative Realism: http://www.speculations-journal.org/ Pli: Warwick Journal of Philosophy: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/philosophy/ pli_journal Ozone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies: http://ozone-journal.org/

Speculative Heresy: http://speculativeheresy.wordpress.com/ Anthem: http://anthem-group.net/ Levi Bryant: http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/ Graham Harman: http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/ Adrian Ivakhiv: http://blog.uvm.edu/aivakhiv/ Tim Morton: http://www.ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com/ Paul Ennis: http://www.anotherheideggerblog.blogspot.com/ Pete Wolfendale: http://deontologistics.wordpress.com/

Other Texts
Badiou, Alain, Being and Event (London: Continuum, 2005). Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010). Bergson, Henri, Creative Evolution (London: Macmillan and Co, 1922) Bogost, Ian, Unit Operations: An Introduction to Videogame Criticism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006). , Process vs. Procedure, from the Fourth International Conference of the Whitehead Research Project, Metaphysics and Things: New Forms of Speculative Thought, (2010). , Alien Phenomenology, or, What Its Like to Be a Thing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012). Brassier, Ray, Concepts and Objects, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). , Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter, Doctoral thesis, University of Warwick (2001).


Louis Morelle Speculative Realism

, Bergson, Lived Experience, and the Myth of the Given, Colloquium in Zagreb 18 June 2011. Bryant, Levi, The Ontic Principle: Outline of an Object-Oriented Ontology, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). Cassou-Nogus, Pierre, Le bord de lexprience: Essai de cosmologie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010). Debaise, Didier, Vocabulaire de Whitehead (Paris: Ellipse, 2007). Deleuze, Gilles, Dierence and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). Ennis, Paul. Post-Continental Voices: Selected Interviews (Winchester: Zero Books, 2010). Grant, Iain Hamilton, The Eternal and Necessary Link Between Philosophy and Physics: A Repetition of the Dierence Between the Fichtean and Schellingian Systems of Philosophy, in Angelaki 10.1 (2005). , Schellingianism and Postmodernity: Towards and Materialist Naturphilosophie, 2000, Available at: http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Cult/CultGran.htm , Mining Conditions: A Response to Harman, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). , Does Nature stay what-it-is? in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). Harman, Graham, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (Chicago: Open Court, 2002). , Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (Chicago: Open Court, 2005). , On Vicarious Causation, in Collapse II (2006). , On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl, in Collapse IV (2008). , Intentional Objects for Non-Humans, Conference at the Universit de Toulouse le Mirail, France, 18 November 2008. , Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (Melbourne: re.press, 2009). , I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed, in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2010), 772-790. , On the Undermining of Objects, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). , Response to Nathan Coombs, Speculations I (2010). , Response to Shaviro, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011).


Speculations III
, Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures (Winchester: Zero Books, 2010). , Circus Philosophicus (Winchester: Zero Books, 2010). Ladyman, James and Don Ross, with David Spurrett and John Collier. Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Lozano, Benjamin, A Contested Revolution, in Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 6.1 (2010). Meillassoux, Quentin, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency trans. Ray Brassier (London: Continuum, 2008). , Temps et surgissement ex nihilo, Lecture at the cole Normale Suprieure, 24 April 2006. , Potentiality and Virutality, in Collapse II (2006). , Subtraction and Contraction, in Collapse III (2006). , Rptition, itration, ritration : une analyse spculative du signe dpourvu de sens, Lecture at the cole Normale Suprieure, 21 February 2011. Metzinger, Thomas, Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004). Molnar, George, Powers: A Study in Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Shaviro, Steven, The Actual Volcano: Whitehead, Harman, and the Problem of Relations, in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne: re.press, 2011). Skrbina, David, Panpsychism in the West (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005). , ed. Mind That Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millenium (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009). Stengers, Isabelle, Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts trans. Michael Chase (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). Whitehead, Alfred North, The Concept of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920). , Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology corr. ed. (New York: Free Press, 1978). Zizek, Slavoj, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology (London: Verso, 1999). , The Parallax View (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2006).


Outward Bound
On Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude
Christian Thorne
Williams College

If poststructuralism has had a mottoa proverb and quotable provocation then surely it is this, from Derridas Of Grammatology.1 Text has no outside. There is nothing outside the text. It is tempting to put a conventionally Kantian construction on these wordsto see them, I mean, as bumping up against an old epistemological barrier: Our thinking is intrinsically verbalin that sense, textualand it is therefore impossible for our minds to get past themselves, to leave themselves behind, to shed words and in that shedding to encounter objects as they really are, in their own skins, even when were not thinking them, plastering them with language, generating little mind-texts about them. But this is not, in fact, what the sentence says. Derridas claim would seem to be rather stronger than that: not There are unknowable objects outside of text, but There are outside of text no objects for us to know. So we reach for another glossThere is only textaint nothing but textexcept the sentence isnt really saying that either, since to say that there is nothing outside text points to
1 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 158.



Speculations III the possibility that there is, in a manner yet to be explained, something inside text, and this something would not itself have to be text, any more than caramels in a carrying bag have to be made out of cellophane. So we look for another way into the sentence. An alternate angle of approach would be to consider the claims implications in institutional or disciplinary terms. The text has no outside is the sentence via which English professors get to tell everyone else in the university how righteously important they are. No academic discipline can just dispense with language. Sooner or later, archives and labs and deserts will all have to be exited. The historians will have to write up their ndings; so will the anthropologists; so will the biochemists. And if thats true, then it will be in everyones interest to have around colleagues who are capable of reecting on writingliterary critics, philosophers of language, the people we used to call rhetoriciansnot just to proofread the manuscripts of their fellows and supply these with their missing commas, but to think hard about whether the language typically adopted by a given discipline can actually do what the discipline needs it to do. If the text has no outside, then literature professors will always have jobs; the idea is itself a kind of tenure, since it means that writerly types can never safely be removed from the interdisciplinary mix. The idea might even establishor seek to establishthe institutional primacy of literature programs. Il ny a pas de hors-texte. There is nothing outside the English department, since every other department is itself engaged in a more or less literary endeavor, just one more attempt to make the world intelligible in language. Such, then, is the interest of Quentin Meillassouxs After Finitude, rst published in French in 2006.2 It is the book that, more than any other of its generation, means to tell the literature professors that their jobs are not, in fact, safe. Against Derrida it banners a counter-slogan of its own: it could be that contemporary philosophers have lost the great outdoors,
2 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (New York: Continuum, 2008).


Christian Thorne Outward Bound the absolute outside.3 It is Meillassouxs task to restore to us what he is careful not to call nature, to lead post-structuralists out into the open country, to make sure that we are all getting enough fresh air. Meillassoux means, in other words, to wean us from text, and for anyone beginning to experience a certain eye-strain, a certain cramp of the thigh from not having moved all day from out his favorite chair, this is bound to be an appealing prospect, though if you end up unconvinced by its argumentsand there are good reasons for doubt, as the book amounts to a tissue of misunderstanding and turns, nally, on one genuinely arbitrary prohibitionthen its all going to end up sounding like a bullying father enrolling his pansy son in the Boy Scouts against his will: Get your head out of that book! Why dont you go in the yard and play?! Of course, Meillassouxs way of getting the post-structuralists to go hiking with him is by telling them which books to read rst. If you start scanning After Finitudes bibliography, what will immediately stand out is its programmatic borrowing from seventeenth and early eighteenth-century philosophers. Meillassoux regularly cites Descartes4 and poses anew the question that once led to the cogito, but will here lead someplace else: What is the one thing I as a thinking person cannot disbelieve even from the stance of radical doubt? He christens one chapter after Hume and proposes, as a knowing radicalization of the latters arguments, that we think of the cosmos as acausal.5 In the nal pages, Galileo steps forward as modern philosophys forgotten hero.6 His followers are given to saying that Meillassouxs thinking marks out a totally new direction in the history of philosophy, but I dont think anyone gets to make that kind of claim until they have rst drawn up an exhaustive inventory of debts. At one point, he praises a philosopher publishing in the 1980s for having written with a concision worthy of the philosophers of the
3 4

Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 17. Ibid., 92. Ibid., 113.

Ibid., 3.


Speculations III seventeenth century.7 Thats one way to get a bead on this bookthat it resurrects the Grand Sicle as a term of praise. The movement now coalescing around Meillassouxthe one calling itself speculative realismis a bid to get past post-structuralism by resurrecting an ante-Kantian, more or less baroque ontology, on the understanding that nearly all of European philosophy since the rst Critique can be denounced as one long prelude to Derrida. There never was a structuralism, but only pre-post-structuralism. Meillassoux, in sum, is trying to recover the Scientic Revolution and early Enlightenment, which wouldnt be all that unusual, except he is trying to do this on radical philosophys behalftrying, that is, to get intellectuals of the Left to make their peace with science again, as the better path to some of post-structuralisms signature positions. His arguments reliance on early science is to that extent instructive. One of the most appealing features of Meillassouxs writing is that it restages something of the madness of natural philosophy before the age of positivism and the research grant; it retrieves, paragraph-wise, the sublimity and wonder of an immoderate knowledge. In 1712, Richard Blackmore published an epic called Creation, which youve almost certainly never heard of but which remained popular in Britain for several decades. That poem tells the story of the worlds awful making, before humanitys arrival, and if you read even just its opening lines, youll see that this conception is premised on a rather pungent refusal of Virgil and hence on a wholesale refurbishing of the epic as genre: No more of arms I sing. Blackmore reclassies what poets had only just recently been calling heroic verse as vulgar; the epic, it would seem, has degenerated into bellowing stage plays and popular romances and will have to learn from the astrophysicists if it is to regain its loft and dignity. Poets will have to accompany the natural philosophers as they set out to see the full extent of nature and to tally unnumbered worlds.8

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 95. Richard Blackmore, Creation: A Philosophical Poem (Unknown: London,


Christian Thorne Outward Bound The point is that there was lots of writing like this in the eighteenth century, and that it was aligned for the most part with the periods republicans and pseudo-republicans and whatever else England had in those years instead of a Left. This means that the cosmic epic was to some extent a mutation of an early Puritan culture, a way of carrying into the eighteenth century earlier trends in radical Protestant writing, and especially the latters Judaizing or philo-Semitic strains. The idea here was that Hebrew poetry provided an alternative model to Greek and Roman poetry: a sublime, direct poetry of high emotion, of inspiration, ecstasy, and astonishment. The Creation is one of the things you could read if you wanted to gure out how ordinary people ever came to care about sciencehow science was made into something that could turn a person onand what youll nd in its pages is a then new aesthetic that is equal parts Longinus and Milton, or rather Longinus plus Moses plus Milton plus Newton, and not a Weberian or Purito-rationalist Newton, but a Newton supernal and thunder-charged, in which the Principia is made to yield science ction. It is, nally, this writing that Meillassoux is channeling when he asks usroutinelyto contemplate the planets earliest, not-yet-human eons; when, like a boy-intellectual collecting philosophical trilobites, he demands that our minds be arrested by the fossil record or that all of modern European philosophy recongure itself to accommodate the dinosaurs. And it is the eighteenth-century epics penchant for rebolt apocalyptic that echoes in his descriptions of a cosmos beyond law:
Everything could actually collapse: from trees to stars, from stars to laws, from physical laws to logical laws; and this not by virtue of some superior law whereby everything is destined to perish, but by virtue of the absence of any superior law capable of preserve anything, no matter what, from perishing.9

1712), 1 (all quotations).


Meillassoux, After Finitude, 53.


Speculations III Meillassouxs followers call this an idea that no-one has ever had before. The epic poets once called it Strife. That so many readers have discovered new political energies in Meillassouxs argument is perhaps hard to see, since the book contains absolutely nothing that would count, in any of the ordinary senses, as political thought. There are, its true, a few passages in which Meillassoux lets you know he thinks of himself as a committed intellectual: a (badly underdeveloped) account of ideology critique;10 the faint chiming, in one sentence, of The Communist Manifesto;11 a few pages in tribute to Badiou.12 With a little eort, though, the political openings can be teased out, and they are basically twofold: 1) Meillassoux says that thoughts most pressing task is to do justice to the possibilityor, indeed, to the archaic historical realityof a planet stripped of its humans. On at least one occasion, he even uses, in English translation, the phrase world without us.13 For anyone looking to devise a deep ecology by non-Heideggerian meansand there are permanent incentives to reach positions with as little Heidegger as possibleMeillassouxs thinking is bound to be attractive. The book is an entry, among many other such, in the competition to design the most attractive anti-humanism. 2) The antinomian language in the sentence last quotedlaws could collapse; there is no superior law or, indeed, the very notion of a cosmos structured only by unnecessary lawsis no doubt what has drawn to this book those who would otherwise be reading Deleuze, since Meillassoux, like this other, has designed an ontology to anarchist specications, though he has done so, rather surprisingly, without Spinoza. Still, there may be good reasons for going back Kant and Hegel. Another world is possible wasnt Marxs sloganit was Leibnizsexcept at this level, it has to be said, the books politics remain for all intents and purposes allegorical. Meillassouxs argument operates at most as a peculiar, quasi-theological reassurance
10 11

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 33-34.

Ibid., 92. Ibid., 103-104. Ibid., 114.

12 13


Christian Thorne Outward Bound that if we set out to change the political and legal order of our nation-states, the universe will like it.14 Maybe this is already enough information for us to see that After Finitudes relationship to post-structuralism is actually quite complicated. Any brief description of the book is going to have to say that it is out to demolish German Idealism and post-structuralism and any other philosophy of discourse or mind. But if we take a second pass over After Finitude, we will have to conclude that far from attening these latter, its chosen task is precisely to shore them up, to move anti-foundationalism itself onto sturdy ontological foundations. Meillassouxs niftiest trick, the one that having mastered he compulsively performs, is the translating of post-structuralisms over-familiar epistemological claims into fresh-sounding ontological ones. What readers of Foucault and Lyotard took to be claims about knowledge turn out to have been claims about Being all along, and it is through this device that Meillassoux will preserve what he nds most valuable in the radical philosophy of his parents generation: its anti-Hegelianism, its hard-Left anti-totalitarianism, its attack on doctrines of necessity, its counter-doctrine of contingency, its exploding of ideology. Adorno was arguing as early as the mid-60s that thought needed to gure out some impossible way to think its other, which is the unthought, objects open and naked, the world out of our clutches. The concept takes as it most pressing business everything it cannot reach. Is it possible to devise cognition on behalf of the non-conceptual?15 This is the
Leibnizs position, of course, was that other words were possible but undesirable, and the political consequences of that idea have never been lost on anyone. It was left to Leibnizs students in the late twentieth century to retain the possible worlds and ditch the theodicy. See Deleuzes The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992) or, in a very dierent idiom, David Lewiss On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1986), or, for that matter, some of string theorys more occult byways, such as brane cosmology and M-theory.
14 15 Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialektik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997), translations mine, from With Regard to System and The Interest of Philosophy.


Speculations III sense in which Meillassoux, far from breaking with poststructuralism and its cousins, is simply answering one of its central questions. Its just that he does so in a way that any convinced Adornian or Left Heideggerian is going to nd baing. Cognition on behalf of the non-conceptual turns out to have been right in front of us all alongit is called science and math. Celestial mechanics has always been the better anti-humanism. A philosophical anarchism that has thrown its lot in with the geologists and not with the Situationiststhat is the possibility for thought that After Finitude opens up. The book, indeed, sometimes seems to be borrowing some of Heideggers idiom of cosmic awe, but it separates this from the latters critique of sciencesuch that biology and chemistry and physics can henceforth function as vehicles of ontological wonder, astonishment at the world made manifest. And with that idea there comes to an end almost a centurys worth of radical struggle against domination-through-knowledge, against bureaucracy, rule by experts, the New Class, technocracy, instrumental reason, and epistemological regimes. On the back cover of After Finitude, Bruno Latour says that Meillassoux promises to liberate us from discourse, but thats not exactly right and may be exactly wrong. He wants rather to free us from having to think of discourse as a problemprecisely not to rally us against it, in the manner of Adorno and Foucaultbut to license us to make our peace with, and so sink back into, it. Lots of people will nd good reasons to take this book seriously. It is, nonetheless, unconvincing on ve or six fronts at once. 1) It is philosophically conniving. There are almost no empirical constraints placed on the argumentative enterprise of ontology. Nothing in everyday experience is ever going to suggest that one generalized account of all Being is right and another wrong, and this situation will inevitably grant the philosopher latitude. Ontologies will always be tailored to extra-philosophical considerations, any one of them elected only because a given thinker wants something to be true about the cosmos. Explanations of existence are all speculative and 280

Christian Thorne Outward Bound in that sense opportunistic. It is this opportunism we sense when we discover Meillassoux baldly massaging his sources. Here he is on p. 38: Kant maintains that we can only describe the a priori forms of knowledge, whereas Hegel insists that it is possible to deduce them. Kant, we are being told, doesnt think the categories are deducible. And then heres Meillassoux on pp. 88 and 89: the third type of response to Humes problem is Kantsobjective deduction of the categories as elaborated in the Critique of Pure Reason. 2) The leap from epistemology to ontology sometimes falls short. At one point, Meillassoux thinks he can get the better of poststructuralists like so: Imagine, he says, that an anti-foundationalist is talking to a Christian (about the afterlife, say). The Christian says: After we die, the righteous among us will sit at the right hand of the Lord. And the anti-foundationalist responds the way anti-foundationalists always respond: Well, you could be right, but it could also be dierent. For Meillassoux, that last clause is the ontologists opening. His task is now to convince the skeptic that it could also be dierent is not just a skeptical claim about what we cant knowit is not an ignorance, but rather already an ontological position in its own right. What we know about the real cosmos, existing apart from thought, is that everything in it could also be dierent. And now suppose that the anti-foundationalist responds to the ontologist by just repeating the same sentenceagain, because its really all the skeptic knows how to say: Well, you could be right, but it could also be dierent. Meillassoux at this point begins his end-zone dance. He has just claimed that Everything could be dierent, and the skeptic obviously cant disagree with this by objecting that Everything could be dierent.16 The skeptic has been maneuvered round to agreeing with the ontologists position. But Meillassoux doesnt yet have good reasons to triumph, because, quite simply, he is using could be dierent in two contrary senses, and he rather baingly thinks that their shared phrasing is enough to render them identical. He has simply routed

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 57-58.


Speculations III his argument through a rigged formulation, one in which ontological claims and epistemological claims seem briey to coincide. The skeptical, epistemological version of that sentence says: Everything could be dierent from how I am thinking it. And the ontological version says: Everything could be dierent from how it really is now. There may, in fact, occur real-word instances in which skeptics string words into ambiguous sentences that could mean either, and yet this will never indicate that they unwittingly or via logical compulsion mean the latter. 3) Meillassouxs theory of language is lunatic. Another way of getting a bead on After Finitude would be to say that it is trying to shut down science studies; it wants to stop literary (and anthropological) types from reading the complicated utterances produced by science as writing (or discourse or culture). Meillassoux is bugged by anyone who reads scientic papers and gets interested in what is least scientic in themanyone, that is, who attributes to astronomy or kinetics a political unconscious, as when one examines the great new systems devised during the seventeenth century and realizes that they all turned on new ways of understanding laws and forces (or, depending on the language, powers). Meillassouxs own philosophy requires, as he puts it, the belief that the realist meaning of [any utterance about the early history of the planet] is its ultimate meaningthat there is no other regime of meaning capable of deepening our understanding of it.17 The problem is, of course, that its really easy to show that science writing does, in fact, contain an ideological-conceptual surcharge; that, like any other verbally intricate undertaking, it cant help but borrow from several linguistic registers at once; and that there is always going to be some other order of meaning at play in statements about strontium or the Mesozoic. Science studies, after all, possesses lots of evidence of a more or less empirical kind, and Meillassouxs response is to object that this evidence concerns nothing ultimate. But then what would it mean for a sentence to have an ulti17

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 14.


Christian Thorne Outward Bound mate meaning anyway? A meaning that outlasts its rivals? Or that defeats them in televised battle? What, then, is the time that governs meanings, such that some count as nal even while the others are still around? And at what point do secondary meanings just disappear? What are the periods of a meanings rise and fall? Meillassoux doesnt possess the resources to answer any of those questions; nor, as best as I can tell, does he mean to try. The phrase ultimate meaning is not philosophically serious. It does little more than commit us to a blatant reductionism, commanding us to disregard any complexities and ambiguities that a linguistically attentive person would, upon reading Galileo, discover. We can even watch Meillassouxs own language drift, such that ultimate meaning becomes, over the course of three pages, exclusive meaning. Either [a scientic] statement has a realist sense, and only a realist sense, or it has no sense at all.18 It exasperates Meillassoux that an unscientic language would so regularly worm its way into science writing; and it exasperates him, further, that English professors would take the trouble to point this language out. His response is to install a prohibition, the wholly unscientic injunction to treat scientic language as simpler than it is even when the data show otherwise. It is perhaps a special problem for Meillassoux that the ideological character of science writing is especially pronounced in the very period to which he is looking for intellectual salvationthe generations on either side of Newton, which were crammed with ontologies explicitly modeled on the political theology of the late Middle Agesnew scientic cosmologies, I mean, whose political dimensions were quite overt. And it is denitely a problem for Meillassoux that he has himself written a political ontology of roughly this kinda cosmology made-to-order for the punks and the Bakuninitessince one of his opening moves is to disallow the very idea of such ontologies. After Finitude only has the implications its anarchist readership takes it to have if its language means more

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 17.


Speculations III than it literally says, and Meillassoux himself insists that it can have no such meaning.19 4) He poses as secular but is actually a kind of theologian. It is not just that Meillassoux is secular. He is pugnaciously secular or, if you prefer, actively anti-religious. He casually links Levinas with fanaticism and Muslim terror.20 He sticks up for what Adorno once called the totalitarianism of enlightenment, marveling at philosophys now vanished willingness to tell religious people that theyre stupid or at its determination to make even non-philosophers ght on its terms. And against our accustomed sense that liberalism is the spontaneous ideology of secular modernity, Meillassoux sees freedom of opinion instead as an outgrowth of the Counter-Reformation and Counter-Enlightenment. Liberalism, in other words, is how religion gets readmitted to the public sphere even once everyone involved has been forced to concede that its bunk.21 And yet for all that, Meillassoux has entirely underestimated how hard it is going to be to craft a consequent anti-humanism without taking recourse to religious language. At the heart of After Finitude is a simple restatement of the religious mystics ecstatic demand that we get out of ourselves22 and thereby learn to grasp the in-itself; the book aches for an outside which thought could explore with the legitimate feeling of being on foreign territoryof being entirely elsewhere.23 In the place of God, Meillassoux has installed a principle he calls hyper-Chaos, to which, however, he then attaches all manner of conventional theological language, right down to the capital-C-of-adoration. Hyper-Chaos is an entity
for which nothing is or would seem to be impossiblecapable of
19 One good walkthrough of seventeenth-century political ontology is provided by Francis Oakleys Omnipotence, Covenant, & Order: An Excursion in the History of Ideas from Abelard to Leibniz, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984). 20 21

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 43, 47, 48.

Ibid., 46-47. Ibid., 3. Ibid., 7.

22 23


Christian Thorne Outward Bound

destroying both things and worlds, of bringing forth monstrous absurdities, yet also of never doing anything, of realizing every dream, but also every nightmare, of engendering random and frenetic transformations, or conversely, of producing a universe that remains motionless down to its ultimate recess, like a cloud bearing the ercest storms, than the eeriest bright spells.24

No-one reading that passageeven casually, even for the rst timeis going to miss the predictable omnipotence language with which it begins: Chaos is the God of Might. Meillassoux himself acknowledges as much. What may be less apparent, though, is that this entire line of argument simply extends into the present the late medieval debate over whether God was constrained to create this particular universe, or whether he could have, at will, created another, and Meillassouxs position in this sense resembles nothing so much as the orthodox Christian defense of miracles, theorizing a power that can, in deance of its own quotidian regularities, bring forth absurdities, engender transformations, cast bright spells. There have been many dierent theories of contingency over the last generation, especially among philosophers of history. As a philosopheme, it has, in fact, become rather commonplace. Meillassoux is unusual in this regard only in that he has elevated contingency to the position of demiurge and so returned a full portion of metaphysics to a position that had until now been trying to get by without it. Such is the penalty after all for going back behind Kant, that youll have to stop your ears again against the singing of angels. Two generations before the three Critiques there stood Christian Wol, whom Meillassoux does not name, but on whose system his metaphysics is modeled and who wrote, in the 1720s and 30s, that philosophy was the study of the possible as possible. Philosophy, in other words, is the one all-important branch of knowledge that does not study actuality. Each more circumscribed intellectual endeavorbiology,

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 64.


Speculations III history, philologystudies what-now-is, but philosophy studies events and objects in our world only as a subset of the much vaster category of what-could-be. It tries, like some kind of interplanetary structuralism, to work out the entire system of possibilitiesevery hypothetical aggregate of objects or particles or substances that could combine without contradictionand thereby reclassies the universe we currently inhabit as just one unfolding outcome among many unseen others. Meillassoux, in this same spirit, asks us to imagine a cosmos of open possibility, wherein no eventuality has any more reason to be realized than any other.25 And this way of approaching actuality is what Wol calls theology, which in this instance means not knowledge of God but Gods knowledge. Philosophy, for Wolas, by extension, for Meillassouxis a way of transcending human knowledge in the direction of divine knowledge, when the latter is the science not just of our world but of all things that could ever be, what Hegel called the thoughts had by God before the Creationsheer could-ness, vast and indistinct.26 5) He misdescribes recent European philosophy and is thus unclear about his own place in it. Maybe this point is better made with reference to his supporters than to Meillassoux himself. Heres how one of his closest allies explains his contribution:
With his term correlationism, Meillassoux has already made a permanent contribution to the philosophical lexicon. The rapid adoption of this word, to the point that an intellectual movement has already assembled to combat the menace it describes suggests that correlationism describes a pre-existent reality that was badly in need of a name. Whenever disputes arise in philosophy concerning realism and idealism, we immediately note the appearance of a third personage who dismisses both of these alternatives as solutions to a pseudo-problem. This gure is the correlationist, who holds that we can never think of

Meillassoux, After Finitude, 58.

On Wol (and Hegel), see Werner Schneiders Deus est philosophus absolute summus: ber Christian Wols Philosophie und Philosophiebegri, in Christian Wol, 1679-1754: Interpretationen zu seiner Philosophie und deren Wirkung, (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1983), 9-30.


Christian Thorne Outward Bound

the world without humans nor of humans without the world, but only of a primal correlation or rapport between the two.27

As intellectual history, this is almost illiterate. We werent in need of a name, because the people who argue in terms of the-rapport-between-humans-and-world or subject-and-object were already called Hegelians, and the movement opposing them hasnt just sprung up, because philosophers have been battling the Hegelians as long as there have been Hegelians to ght. Worse still is the notion, projected by Meillassoux himself, that all of European philosophy since Kant must be opposed for leading inexorably, shunt-like, to post-structuralism. This is just the melodrama to which radical philosophy is congenitally prone; the entire history of Western thought has to become a single, uninterrupted exercise in the one perhaps quite local error you would like to correct, the cost of which, in this instance, is that Meillassoux and Company have to turn every major European thinker into a second-rate idealist or vulgar Derridean and so end up glossing Wittgenstein and Heidegger and Sartre and various Marxists in ways that are tendentious to the point of unrecognizability. There are central components of Meillassouxs project that philosophers have been attempting since the 1790s, and he occasionally gives the impression of not knowing that European philosophy has been trying for generations to get past dialectics or humanism or the philosophy of the subject or whatever else it is for which correlationism is simply a new term. Perhaps Meillassoux thinks that his contribution has been to show that Wittgenstein and Heidegger were more Hegelian than they themselves realized. But then this, too, seems more like a repetition than a new direction, since European philosophy has always had a propensity for auto-critique of precisely this kind. Auto-critique is in lots of ways its most fundamental move: One anti-humanist philosopher accuses another of having snuck in some humanist premise or another. One
27 Harman, Graham, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 7-8.


Speculations III philosopher-against-the-subject accuses another of being secretly attached to theories of subjectivity. And so on. For Meillassoux to come around now and say that there are residues of Kant and Hegel all over the place in contemporary thoughtwell, sure: Thats just the sort of thing that European philosophers are always saying. 6) He is wrong about German idealism. Kant, Meillassoux says, is the one who deprived us all of the Great Outdoors, which accusation seems plausibleuntil you remember that bit about the starry sky above me. This is one more indication that Meillassoux is punching air, though the point matters more with reference to Hegel than to Kant. Hegels philosophy, after all, turns on a particular way of relating the history of the world: At rst, human beings were just pinpricks of consciousness in a world not of their own making, mobile smudges of mind on an alien planet. But human activity gradually remade the worldit refashioned every glade and river valleyworked all the materialsto the point where there now remains nothing in the world that hasnt to some degree been made subject to human desire and planning. The world has, in this sense, been all but comprehensively humanized; it is saturated with mind. What are we to say, then, when Meillassoux claims that no modern philosopher since Kant can even begin to deal with the existence of the world before humans; that they cant even take up the question; that they have to duck it; that it is what will blow holes in their systems? Hegel not only has no trouble speaking of the pre-human planet; his historical philosophy downright presupposes it. The world didnt used to be human; it is now thorough-goingly so; the task of philosophy is to account for that change. And it is the great failing of Meillassouxs book that, having elevated paleontology to the paradigmatic science, he cant even begin to explain the transformation. You might ask yourself again whether Meillassouxs account of science is more plausible than a Hegelian one. What, after all, happened when Europeans began devising modern science? What did science actually start doing? Was it or wasnt it a rather important part of the ongoing process by which 288

Christian Thorne Outward Bound human beings subjected the non-human world to mind? Meillassoux urges us to think of science as the philosophy of the non-human, positing as it does a world separable from thought, a planet independent of humanity, laws that dont require our enforcing. But does science, in fact, bring that world about? Meillassoux hasnt even begun to respond to those philosophers, like Adorno and Heidegger, who wanted to pry philosophy away from science, not because they were complacently encased in the thought-bubbles of discourse and subjectivity, but more nearly the oppositebecause they thought science was the philosophy of the subject, or one important version of it, the very techno-thinking by which human being secures its nal dominion over the non-human. Meillassoux, in this sense, is trying to theorize, not the science that actually entered into the world in the seventeenth century, but something else, an alternate modernity, one in which aletheia and science went hand in hand, a fully nonhuman science or science that humans didnt control: gelassene Wissenschaft. But the genuinely materialist position is always going to be the one that takes seriously the eects of thought and discourse upon the world; the one that knows science itself to be a practice; the one that faces up to the realization that the concept of the non-human can only ever be a device by which human beings do things to themselves and their surroundings. There is nothing real about a realism that oers itself only as a utopian counter-science, a communication from the pluriverse, a knowledge that presumes our non-existence and so requires, as bearer, some alternate cosmic intelligence that it would be simplest to call divinity.


The Noumenons New Clothes1

(Part 1)
Peter Wolfendale
Independent Researcher

spectre is haunting continental philosophythe spectre of Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO). All the disciplines and groupings that have traditionally allied themselves with continental theory in the anglophone world are poised to greet its manifestation: aesthetic theory and artistic practice, political philosophy and heterodox geography, Francophile post-post-structuralists and Germanist neo-romantics. Who among them has not heard the siren song of OOOs litanies of inhuman objects (menageries of stock markets and stock cubes, quarks and clerks, etc.)?
1 This paper has been a long time in development. It was initiated at the suggestion of Graham Harman, after previous attempts at informal engagement with his ideas (which can be found in the commentary section of my blog here: http://deontologistics.wordpress.com/commentary) became too extensive for him to easily respond to. In its long gestation it has beneted immeasurably from my discussions with Ray Brassier, Damian Veal, Robin Mackay, Daniel Sacilotto, Dustin McWherter, Nick Srnicek and Jon Cogburn, some of whom were gracious enough to provide comments on early drafts of the material that has come to make up this paper. It has also beneted from the comments of numerous more or less anonymous individuals who have read and responded to the informal engagements already mentioned. Finally, I owe an immense debt to Fabio Gironi, without whose incredible patience and careful encouragement this piece never would have appeared.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes Who among them has not begun to shrug o the oppressive, anthropocentric legacy of Post-Kantian philosophy, bravely railing against the tyrannical correlationists of the continental academy, the dreary technicians of the analytic mainstream, and even the scientistic fury of its Neo-Kantian heirs? I will plead forgiveness for my bombast, but there is a certain grandeur to the pronouncements regarding the emergence of OOO as a philosophical movement that demands parody, and I hope this can be taken in good spirit, as a sort of gesture to clear the air. I have every intention of taking these pronouncements as seriously as possible, and perhaps even more seriously than they are intended. Graham Harman, the erstwhile leader of this most vocal faction of what was once, eetingly, called Speculative Realism (SR), has often expressed a preference for what he calls hyperbolic readings of philosophies.2 The idea here is to imagine the relevant philosophy in a position of nigh-unassailable strength, so as to tease out what would be missing from a world in which it had become dominant. To imagine a given philosophical tendency actually winning the discursive battles in which it is engaged is to treat it with the utmost seriousness. It is to treat it as a genuine contender for truth, whose claims to truth are sincere enough to be taken at face value. This is the kind of respect that any serious philosophical position should be treated with, and this goes double for nascent philosophical movements that claim to have both wide ranging implications and applications. The aim of this paper is to take OOO seriously, and to treat it with at least this level of respect (my initial parody aside). However, the hyperbolic method is surprisingly dicult to apply to OOO itself, given both the diversity and tentativeness of the commitments of its principal practitioners (canonically: Graham Harman, Levi Bryant, Ian Bogost, and Tim Morton). There is most denitely a common rhetoric binding these g2 Delandas Ontology: Assemblage and Realism in Continental Philosophy Review (2008) 41:3, 367-383; Prince of Networks, 121-122; Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 152-158.


Speculations III ures togetheran insistence upon ontological egalitarianism, a rehabilitation of the concept of substance, and a pervasive metaphorics of withdrawalbut a deeper examination of each of these raises serious questions regarding the content of the shared commitments they purport to name. There are disagreements regarding just how egalitarian we must be (e.g., what it is to say that everything is an object), just what it means to return to a metaphysics of substance (e.g., whether it is permissible to conceive it in processual terms), and precisely what it is to say objects are withdrawn and thereby what we can know about them. There are obviously a number of common issues to which these ideas are addressed, but its not clear that they represent genera of common solutions that could be neatly broken up into variant species. It is quite possible that this problem will be alleviated by time, but for now, at least, we must pursue another strategy.3 Given this problem, the aim of the current paper is to lay the groundwork for a proper engagement with OOO by focusing upon the philosophical system of its progenitor: Graham Harmans own Object-Oriented Philosophy (OOP). As the oldest and most well-dened variant of OOO, this provides us with the best starting point for any wider engagement with the movement. However, to treat OOP with proper respect means to deal with it in its specicity, which in turn means outside of the context of the overarching rhetoric which binds together the dierent strands of OOO. This is particularly important, insofar as although it is often clear what the proponents of OOO think, it is often far less clear why they think it, which only exacerbates the problem of divergences between them. The rst step of my approach will thus be to present as complete and concise a summary of the what of OOP as I can, breaking the metaphysical system down into three distinct aspects: withdrawal, the fourfold, and vicarious causation. The second step will then be to present
3 Some may think that this is a hasty conclusion. I would direct them to my more informal (but nonetheless extensive) attempts to engage with and understand the dierences between Harmans and Bryants variants of OOO, which can also be found in the commentary section of my blog (see fn. 1).


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes as charitable an interpretation of the why of OOP as I can, teasing out and reconstructing the possible arguments for each of these three aspects in as much detail as is feasible, before assessing them on their merits. The third step will be to make a number of overarching criticisms of the project of OOP on the basis of this assessment, pinpointing several key problems that run throughout it. The nal step will then be to present the hyperbolic projection of OOP initially promised, and to draw some conclusions about precisely what OOP (and perhaps OOO) has to oer on these grounds. Carrying out these steps will be a lengthy process, and so the paper will be split in two: the rst two steps will be carried out here, and the second two will be published subsequently.4 Before delving into the details (and wrestling with the Devil who hides in them), its also worthwhile to explain the title of this paper, the meaning of which may not yet be evident. Although he is willing to admit that his philosophy amounts to a radicalisation of a certain kind of correlationism (the weak form), in similar fashion to Meillassouxs philosophy (in relation to the strong form), Harman nevertheless presents his work as both a trenchant critique and an important step beyond the menace of correlationism in contemporary philosophy. I do not intend to dispute the idea that there is such a correlationist menace (though I do take it to be more complicated than it is sometimes thought to be), but I will take issue with Harmans presentation of his own relationship to it. When it is properly understood, Harmans work should be seen not as a critique of correlationism, but a consolidation of its central tenets. Harman essentially attempts to overcome the inconsistencies inherent within correlationism by sacricing one of its core featuresthe prohibition on metaphysicsin order to construct a metaphysical prop whose purpose is nothing less than to bolster the rest of the calamitous edice. He revives and transforms Kants noumenal realm in order to preserve

This will of course appear in the next issue of Speculations. I must once again express my gratitude to Fabio, and the whole Speculations team, for making possible something as unusual as this piece.


Speculations III the most disastrous prejudices of the correlationist tradition he claims to break with. Far from being a truly weird realism, OOP is no more than the eccentric uncle of the correlationist family. The metaphysical spoils it claims to have liberated from the Kantian stronghold are so much ashes and rust. After all is said and done, it returns to us naked, claiming to be wreathed in the nest vestments. The only proper gesture of respect in this circumstance is to point out its immodesty.5 1. The Lava that Dares not Speak its Name Before performing exploratory surgery on the beating heart of OOP, it is rst necessary to present the customary compliments regarding the overall shape and style of its vascular architecture. Whatever else can be said about Harmans presentation of OOP, it is certainly compelling. On the one hand, it attempts to reveal the inherent oddness of the world we live in, by painting us a landscape of a reality in which everything is radically individual, cut o from everything else in almost every respect, connected only by eeting glimmers of phenomenal appearance. On the other, it attempts to humble humanity by seeing humans as just one more disparate association of objects within the universal diaspora, and the intentional terms through which they relate to one another as merely an expression of a more fundamental sensual connectivity in which everything may partake. We must applaud such willingness to countenance counter-intuitive metaphysical conclusions and to embrace ontological humil5 As this indicates, this paper is indeed a polemic of sorts. I will not preempt this polemic by endeavouring to outline its scope in advance, but I will attempt to pre-empt objections based on the idea that I violate my own principle of respect simply by adopting a polemical tone. Harmans own words on this topic are eminently suited for this purpose: Polemical writing in philosophy no longer enjoys its previous level of acceptance, and is now often dismissed as the product of incivility, aggression, even jealousy. Against this attitude, we should appreciate the clarifying tendencies of polemicalways the favored genre of authors frustrated by the continued clouding of an important decision, whether through fashionable clich or dubious conceptual manoeuvres. Graham Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, (Open Court, 2005), 11.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes ity wherever we nd it. Moving on, the central axis around which Harmans metaphysical system turns is the distinction between the real and sensual. He is fond of describing this by appealing to a volcanic metaphor: the reality of things consists in their molten cores, the liquid specicities of which withdraw behind a sensual crust of visible features. On this view, the substantial magma at the heart of every entity is forever trapped beneath a rocky outer surface whose stillness is only occasionally interrupted by the tectonic forces it unleashes. However, these occasional eruptions always catch us unawares. We never glimpse the molten essence as it leaks through the fault lines in its phenomenal facade, but only catch it as it cools, already crystallising into new sensual continents. The metaphorical lava is nowhere to be found. To twist this metaphorical register for the purposes of summary: Harmans is a world of disconnected volcanic island nations oating in a cool sensual sea. A world in which you can travel as much as you like, but youll always be a tourist. No matter how hard you try, youll never see the real island, only beaches full of German holidaymakers and chintzy gift shops. You might get the occasional taste of ita wi of the exotic food the real islanders eat as you pass by, or a stolen glimpse of the real lives of the inhabitants over a whitewashed wallbut thats all youll ever get. In order to provide an adequate exposition of Harmans noumenal cosmology, Im going to divide my discussion of the ways in which he develops and expands upon the split between the real and the sensual in three. I will tackle the relation between the real and the sensual under the heading of withdrawal, which is the most famous aspect of Harmans position. I will then tackle the way this is complicated by the introduction of a second axisthe distinction between objects and qualitiesunder the heading of the fourfold, which is the name of the structure Harman derives from their intersection. Finally, I will address the most prominent metaphysical problem that emerges from Harmans system under the heading of vicarious causation, which names its corresponding solution. 295

Speculations III a) Withdrawal It is all too easy to say that Harmans world is divided in two: a celestial plane of intentional facades masking a hellish realm of machinic forces, an open space of sensual contact concealing the endlessly churning reality that makes it possible. The truth is that these two sides of his cosmos are folded into one another at every opportunity: there is no straight line from one sensual point to another that does not pass through a real one, nor vice-versa. What we have instead is a pluriverse of infernal engines that present themselves to one another so as to hide their internal machinations, each a realm unto itself, like the many hells of Buddhist lore, composed out of further layers of tortuous machinery, each part of which is available to its fellows only in outline, containing its own inexplicable depths, concealing further strange and sulphurous landscapes, evermore intricate and malicious economies of action, yet to be explored. This is the world of real objects. It is a world to which we ourselves belong, along with everything that has any real eect upon usor indeed, upon anything at all. This is the site of everything that really happens in the world. Its important to distinguish between two kinds of happening though: execution and causation. For Harman, a real object just is its execution, which is to say its being-whatever-it-is, or rather, doing-whatever-it-does. This is to say that each real object is dened by some inscrutable end for which it is the corresponding act. The relation between every real thing taken as a whole and the parts that compose it is to be understood in terms of functional relations, like the relation between a machine and its components. The real object consists in the unitary action of its parts deployed towards the given end: it is its execution insofar as it is a function in action. There is more that could be said about this, but its important to recognise that although this action is certainly a happening of sorts, it is the occurrence of sameness, or simple persistence. The various machinic arrangements of parts and wholes that compose the real are essentially synchronic. For Harman, causation is 296

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes the occurrence of dierence, or change, and it emerges from diachronic relations of interaction between real objects. The paradox with which he closes his rst book, Tool-Being, is that his characterisation of such objects as persisting unities seems to preclude the possibility that they could eect change in one another, implying an essentially static cosmic order, in opposition to the seeming reality of change that constantly assails our senses. The reason for this is that the reality of persistence qua execution implies that real objects withdraw from one another, unable to aect one another by default. This withdrawal has two facets: the excess of everything over its presentations, and the independence of everything from everything else. Excess follows from the inscrutability of the end governing each object, insofar as it occludes its internal economy of action (execution) and thereby the external capacities for action (causation) that emerge from it. Execution is a pure act of persistence underlying every actual interaction, and a pure actuality underlying every possible interaction. This means that it transcends both interaction and possibility. We can never know the sheer execution of the thing that lies behind every possible encounter. Insofar as ontological humility demands that we treat the way we grasp the capabilities of objects, through either theoretical or practical engagement with them, as just one more instance of an encounter between any two real objects, we must conclude that our inability to grasp an objects veiled execution through any particular possible interaction is a deeper fact about the metaphysics of encounters. This is the fact that the world also contains sensual objects. Our own experience of the world is phenomenologically constituted by intentional relations directed at unitary objects, and this implies that objects experience of one another is metaphysically constituted by something similar. If objects encounter one another as unities, and yet fail to encounter one another directly, then encounters must be mediated by unitary intentional facades or caricatures entirely distinct from the executant realities that project them. Independence follows from this, insofar as every real object is protected from 297

Speculations III every other by an honour guard of distinct sensual objects, forever precluding access to it, at least by default. Finally, it must be emphasised that withdrawal does not merely occur between isolated real objects, like a non-aggression pact between the many hells, but also occurs within them, in the form of mereological isolation. It is easy to see how this involves the mutual withdrawal of the parts of an object from one another, insofar as they are real objects in their own right, but it also consists in the withdrawal of parts from the wholes they compose, and wholes from the parts they contain. Of course, the whole is dependent upon its parts, insofar as it cannot subsist without them, but it is equally independent of them in two senses: a) it is entirely possible for its parts to be replaced without signicantly altering its internal economy, and b) this economy produces capacities which exceed the capacities of the parts taken in isolation. Similarly, although the parts may be reciprocally dependent upon one another to some extent, insofar as they require certain conditions in which to function, they are equally independent of their context in two senses: a) it is entirely possible for them to be transplanted into a dierent whole without dissolving their own distinct unity, and b) new contexts may reveal hitherto unexpressed capacities that were previously suppressed. A real object considered as a whole is a specic arrangement of parts that both transcends and fails to exhaust their specicity. Despite the fact that the real object consists in transcending this excess of specicity, it nevertheless plays an additional role, insofar as the whole draws upon it in generating the sensual objects it hides behind. The various inessential features of a real objects parts become resources for producing the phenomenal accidents that cloak its executant reality. b) The Fourfold Once we begin to talk about the features and capacities of objects as distinct from the objects themselves, we are stumbling upon the second fundamental axis around which Harmans system turns: the distinction between objects and their qualities. 298

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes Things are not just torn between their subterranean execution and its phenomenal eects, but between their persistent unity and its constituent plurality. This does not concern how a singular whole is composed by a multiple parts (e.g., the composition of an ice cube out of molecules), though this is a related issue, but how a single entity is determined in a various ways (e.g., the coldness, hardness, or translucency of the ice cube). The mutual withdrawal between parts and whole weve already seen consists in wholes having qualities their parts lack (e.g., the molecules are neither translucent nor hard), and parts having qualities their wholes ignore (e.g., the unique chemical properties of the trace amount of minerals in the water is usually entirely irrelevant to the ice cube). Qualities are not objects, even if the qualities a thing possesses somehow bubble up from the objects that compose it.6 These two distinctions are not merely parallel, but cut across one another. This produces a fourfold of terms: in addition to the distinction between sensual objects (SO) and real objects (RO), there is a distinction between sensual qualities (SQ) and real qualities (RQ). The objects that appear in our phenomenal experience are encrusted with sensible features that may vary from moment to moment, but the latter are entirely distinct from the real features submerged in the silent execution they conceal. Here we begin to see the way the four poles interact with one another to form Harmans ten categories. The relation between a sensual object and its sensual qualities (SO-SQ) is the condition of the variation of its encrusted accidents, or time itself, whereas the relation between a sensual object and its real qualities (SO-RQ) is the submerged anchor around which this variation is xed, or what Husserl calls eidos. These two categories are the rst of what Harman calls the tensions between object and quality. The emergence of sensual objects in our experience is dependent upon the sensible features the corresponding real objects allow them to present from perspective to perspective, and the distinctness of these underlying real objects is in

We will complicate this claim to some extent in section 2(a)(iii) and 2(b)(i).


Speculations III turn dependent upon dierences between the features they can never present. This gives us the remaining two tensions. The relation between a real object and its sensual qualities (RO-SQ) is the condition under which it can relate to another object through a sensuous facade, or space, whereas the relation between a real object and its real qualities (RO-RQ) is its principle of uniqueness, or what Zubiri calls essence. Taken together, these four tensions provide the schema of sameness and dierence between objects, both real and apparent, along with their constancy and variation. Harman calls the changes that emerge within this schema ssions and fusions. This is because two tensions (time and eidos) have a persistent state of connection between object and quality for two of the tensionsso that change demands ssion of this connectionand two (space and essence) have a persistent state of separationso that change demands fusion of what is separated. Its important to recognise that the ssions take place within the sensual realm, insofar as they involve breaks in the connections between the sensual objects we experience and their qualities. In confrontation, it gets broken from its sensual qualities (time), such that its accidental features are somehow revealed as accidental. This occurs when we recognise something as something (e.g., a tree as a gallows), thereby separating those qualities irrelevant to this characterisation (e.g., height, branch structure, etc.) from those that arent (e.g., colour, foliage, etc.). In theory, it gets broken from its real qualities (eidos), such that its eidetic features are somehow contrasted to its accidental ones. This occurs when we strive to grasp the constants that underlie the shifting surface variations all things are subject to (e.g., to analyse the trees morphology, or its genetic structure). By contrast, only one of the fusions marks the emergence of the real object within the phenomenal sphere, so as to redraw its boundaries from within, whereas the other is entirely withdrawn, and so is only apparent in the ways it redraws these boundaries from without. The former is allure, where it interacts with the features of the sensible facades it projects (space), such that there is an apparent juxtaposition 300

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes between its accidental elements and its eidetic core. This occurs in various aesthetically signicant experiences (e.g., cuteness, beauty, humour, embarrassment, humility, disappointment, loyalty),7 but is most prominently displayed in the use of metaphor (e.g., when we frame our experience of the tree by describing it as a ame). The latter is causation, where it interacts with its own real features (essence), so as to unlock its capacities to aect the withdrawn core of other things. As already indicated, the possibility of causation is thrown into question by withdrawal, and this necessitates the theory of vicarious causation to follow, which will turn upon its relation with allure. Before getting into this though, we must examine the remaining six categories, which are divided into the radiations between qualities and qualities and the junctions between objects and objects. Much as there was a rift between one of the tensions and the other three with regard to their role in experience, there is a crucial dierence between the roles that radiations and junctions play therein. On the one hand, the radiations cover the way that qualities are related within experience by the sensual objects that populate it: the relation between two sensual qualities (SQ-SQ) is their emanation through the same object of experience, the relation between two real qualities (RQ-RQ) is their contraction behind this same object, and the relation between the sensual qualities and the real qualities (SQ-RQ) is their duplicity in the way they dier from one another. On the other hand, the conjunctions cover the way that relations between objects constitute experience in relation to ourselves qua real objects: the relation between two sensual objects (SO-SO) can only take place as continguity within our experience, the relation between two real objects (RO-RO) is the withdrawal of the corresponding real objects behind our experience, and the relation between a real object and a sensual object (RO-SO) is the sincerity that constitutes this experience itself. Together, the three radiations and three conjunctions provide the framework

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 212-213.


Speculations III in which the three experiential tensions can unfold. They give us an abstract map of the phenomenal realms that lie between infernal kingdoms of executionthe borderlands through which they smuggle causal contraband, or the embassies through which they communicate. c) Vicarious Causation We can now turn to the problem of how this communication occurs. The independence of real objects from one another demands such an explanation: how can mutually withdrawn objects possibly interact, so as to produce real changes in one another? These are quite distinct from the mere phenomenal variations that sensual objects undergo in experience, because they can recongure the intentional space in which experience occurs. Yet it is only within these intentional spaces that a real object can encounter the variable facades projected by other real objects, and only through these sensual vicars that any sort of contact can be established between them. The fact that all causal contact arises out of an intentional relation between an experiencing real object and an experienced sensual object that mediates between it and its real counterpart implies that the causal relation is not just vicarious, but also asymmetrical and buered. It is asymmetrical because the relation has direction, proceeding from the object the vicar conceals to the object the vicar appears to. This means that causation can occur one-way between real objects, without reciprocation (e.g., when a bee is hit by an oncoming car, the bee may be destroyed while the car is entirely unscathed). It is buered because there are many contiguous sensual objects present in the same experience, and this does not result in interactions between the real objects they hide (e.g., the bee may be drawn into the path of the truck by an enticing ower, but the truck and the ower may be entirely unrelated). This means that a real objects sincerity in encountering a sensual object is the condition of that objects receptivity. However, we are not causally aected by every object we experience. The phenomenal realms that real objects nd 302

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes themselves immersed in are lled to the brim with myriad sensual unities, many of which have no impact upon them at all. This means that intentional relations are not automatically causal relations. The question is thus what more there is to causal contact than mere sincerity. Harman responds by drawing the link between causation and allure mentioned above. Genuine change is internal to a real object, insofar as it only occurs when a real object becomes connected to its qualities in regenerating its essence, but this nevertheless requires an external trigger, which can only take the form of some variation within the intentional space its immersed in. Harman proposes that the confrontations usually precipitated by such variation are insucient to trigger causal contact, because the qualities encountered therein are still tied to the facade that hides the triggering object from the triggered object. It is only in allusion that these ties are broken, and the qualities are allowed to orbit the real object underlying them (e.g., when the metaphorical comparison of the tree with a ame highlights the relevant qualities in a way that makes them alien to it as we are familiar with it). Allure lets reality obliquely slide into appearance, striking the object that experiences it in a way that surpasses the sensual ux it is accustomed to, so that the accidental features of the aecting object catalyse the reshuing of essential features within the aected object. Nevertheless, the latter does not strictly see the former, even if it feels it in some specic aesthetic mode (e.g., as humorous) and to some specic degree of aesthetic intensity (e.g., as only mildly humorous). The brief suspension of causal independence that occurs in causal connection never really overcomes the corresponding epistemic excess. Allure may play an important role in enabling us to recongure the ways we think about entities, but it never amounts to knowledge of them. This is why Harman grants aesthetics a special philosophical privilege. In examining the varieties of allure and their relationships it gives us insight into the metaphysical structure of reality that forever escapes the stale practice of epistemology. With the tenfold categorical schema derived from the fourfold, 303

Speculations III Harman has provided a general theory of objects, which he calls ontography, capable of application to the various specic domains of objects that compose the cosmos. Yet it is only through extending of the sorts of aesthetic analysis indicated by his theory of allure that these domains can be eshed out. Ultimately, Harman proposes an alliance of aesthetics and metaphysics that promises to lay bare the various regions of the cosmos to renewed philosophical inquiry. It now falls to us to assess this proposal, and its worth. 2. The Withdrawal of Arguments Having looked into the what of OOP, its time to concern ourselves with the why. This means locating the various arguments that Harman presents for each of the dierent aspects of his metaphysical system that weve distinguished. As I hinted in the introduction, this is by no means an easy task. Although Harmans work is peppered with phrases such as I will show..., I have already argued..., or As argued repeatedly..., these do not often refer to specic arguments as much as to the overarching dramatisation of a given idea that takes place throughout the work.8 There are a few notable exceptions to this, as we will see, but what arguments there are in Harmans work tend to be blended together in ways that make them hard to tease aparta task which is vital if they are to be properly assessed. To draw on Harmans own preferred metaphors once more, the arguments often seem to withdraw into themselves, leaving textual vicars that tantalise ones cognitive faculties by alluding to their real logical depths. Our current task is thus to draw them out of hiding and expose them to the light of reason.9
8 These examples are all taken from Tool-Being (Chicago and la Salle: Open Court, 2002), 19, 61, 70, but one can nd many similar phrases in all his works. It is very rare to nd such a phrase that is tied to a specic chain of inferences, such as by referencing the pages upon which the supposed argument takes place. 9 Harman himself looks down on this sort of critical engagement with the arguments underlying a philosophical position for various reasons (cf.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes Of course, Harman also has his own (fairly derogatory) opinions about the role of argument within philosophy, as part of his wider concerns with the importance of philosophical style, and these must be taken into account.10 However, we will address these later on in the present essay. For now, our aim is to delineate and perhaps even repair as much as is feasible of the justicatory tissue holding together the skeletal structure of Harmans corpus which weve already revealed. This is a delicate operation that requires exegetical care, logical skill, and not a small amount of discursive charity. Returning to the medical metaphor opening the rst section, we are about to move from exploratory to reconstructive surgery. In order to facilitate this, Im going to draw a threefold distinction articulating the dierent ways in which Harman frames his ideas with an eye to their justication: historical narrative, phenomenological description, and metaphysical argument. Historical narratives introduce an idea by reconstructing its genesis within a particular historical dialectic; usually constituted by a series of dierent thinkers, each of which makes some important contribution to the problematic in which the idea gestates, only to emerge fully formed in the authors own work. These rational reconstructions are an important philosophical tool deployed by many of the great gures in the history of philosophy.11 The philosophies of Hegel, HeiGuerilla Metaphysics, 12a), some of which are curiously intertwined with elements of his own position. He would rather that, instead of systematically critiquing a position on the basis of aws in its argumentation, we strove to present counter-narratives that construct suggestive alternatives to it. Even while Harman admits that such debunking may be necessary work at times, he nevertheless maintains that we should not forget that it is mainly the work of dogs (cynics, to say it in Greek). (Ibid.) Even if we grant this, it cannot get in the way of the work that respect demands. Mere preference has no say upon when the dogs must be released. Woof.
10 11

Cf. Graham Harman, Prince of Networks (Melbourne: re.press, 2009), 169-175.

For an account of the logic of this process reconstruction, see Brandoms work on the historical dimension of rationality in the introduction to Tales of the Mighty Dead (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2002) and his own reconstruction of Hegel in Reason in Philosophy (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 2009), ch. 3.


Speculations III degger and Deleuze would not be as compelling or even as accessible without the thematic vectors they trace through their forebears in the direction of their own work. Harman is thus to be commended for wielding this method of exposition with some skill. However, the danger associated with this method is that it can easily slip from licit exposition to illicit justication in the form of arguments from authority. Such arguments can be useful as shorthand forms of justication (equivalent to saying you need to go read Aristotle/Hegel/ Heidegger/etc. before we can talk seriously about this), but they wither under more sustained forms of philosophical scrutiny. The issue is exacerbated if the readings of the gures in question are particularly controversial, such as Harmans reading of Heidegger, which forms a crucial part of his own object-oriented history.12 As such, in separating out these narratives from the other forms of exposition and argument in Harmans work, my primary goal will be to ensure that they play no such illicit justicatory role. Phenomenological descriptions play an important part in Harmans work, insofar as his metaphysics is thoroughly inuenced by an appropriation of the ideas of Husserl and Heidegger. His is a metaphysics of intentional relation, and his account of intentionality is fundamentally culled from the phenomenological tradition and its methodology of immanent description. However, the methodological questions regarding the nature and status of phenomenological description that were of such concern to Husserl and Heidegger receive little attention in Harmans work. He is often all too eager to delve directly into phenomenological analysis without clarifying precisely what it is he is doing in doing so. Where Husserl devotes a enormous amount of time and eort to elaborating the various aspects of the phenomenological
This is an area in which I can speak with at least enough authority to be taken seriously, given the fact that my PhD thesis (The Question of Being: Heidegger and Beyond) presents a synoptic reading of Heideggers work that, while diverging from both the standard analytic and continental readings much as Harmans does, comes to radically dierent (and, I would argue, far more nuanced) conclusions than Harmans own.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes reduction, and Heidegger devotes a serious (if not necessarily comparable) eort to modifying this within his own existential-hermeneutic framework, Harman gives us little in the way of phenomenological methodology. This not only makes the precise content of many of his phenomenological claims unclear, but more worryingly brings into question the metaphysical conclusions that are leveraged on the basis of these claims. It is thus of the utmost importance to identify precisely which of Harmans claims are motivated by phenomenological analysis, and how they are deployed in the attempt to justify his more contentious metaphysical claims. This brings us to the third form of exposition: metaphysical argument itself. Specically, it raises the question of what qualies either a philosophical claim or its justication as metaphysical. Put dierently: just what is metaphysics anyway? This question should weigh heavily on the shoulders of anyone intending to engage in renewed metaphysical speculation regardless of their preferred method, but this weight becomes particularly acute when one intends to derive metaphysical conclusions from phenomenological premises. Although it is possible to nd his account wanting, one cant say that Heidegger merely identies phenomenology and ontology without addressing and attempting to justify this quite radical divergence from the metaphysical tradition.13 Heideggers detailed historical and methodological work on the problem of metaphysics and the question of Being garners almost no attention in Harmans work, nor is it supplemented by any detailed alternative schema. Indeed, the most sustained engagement with the question I have been able to locate dismisses the possibility of even addressing the methodological task of clarifying the question of Being prior to answering it: ...the question of [B]eing cannot be elucidated until the meaning of [B]eing itself has already somehow been claried, prior to any special description of Dasein.14 This sidelining of methodological issues is very
13 For details, consult my aforementioned PhD thesis (http://deontologistics. wordpress.com/thesis). 14

Harman, Tool-Being, 40.


Speculations III worrying given Harmans unapologetic calls to return to the problems of pre-critical metaphysics.15 All this indicates just how important it is to separate out the roles these dierent forms of exposition play in the more or less explicit arguments within Harmans work, and the way overlaps between them further complicate many of the implicit assumptions undergirding the latter. However, the critical purchase upon Harmans work this would provide requires an exhaustive approach that has some of its own problems. First, the ideal of exhaustiveness places exegetical demands upon a commentator (and critic) that are often unrealistic, and this can easily lead to accusations of impropriety. I have gone out of my way to read as much of Harmans extant work as I can, in order to forestall such accusations, but I expect them nonetheless.16 Second, it places hermeneutic demands on those who would read (and perhaps respond to) the commentary that are substantial, if not always unreasonable. Not only must they be willing to cover the same exegetical ground as the commentator, but they must keep track of
15 It is also helpful to note that despite using the term being quite extensively throughout Tool-Being, Harman never provides any generic denition or analysis of the term that goes beyond his own metaphysical account of it. If pushed to provide a quick analysis of his usage of the term, I would say that he uses it in one of two senses: a) in the particular sense to refer to the being of a given object (cf. 85), or b) in the singular sense to refer to the totality of objects (cf. 294). This almost entirely elides the general sense referring to the Being of objects as such that Heidegger himself is principally concerned with (as the subject of the question of Being). In addition, in accordance with his own metaphysical proclivities, the senses in which Harman does use the term are almost universally deployed in opposition to seeming (cf. 26), which is only one of the major oppositions that Heidegger outlines (and indeed, questions) in the course of his career (cf. Introduction to Metaphysics [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000], 103-122). 16 I have read all published books and essay collections, but I have not read all of Harmans published papers, nor any unpublished material that may be circulating. I have also followed his writings on his blog (http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com) rather extensively, though I have refrained from referencing them in justifying any of the substantial points in this paper, for obvious reasons. I consider this to be an eminently reasonable level of work to justify the present essay, even if I cannot completely rule out the possibility that I have missed something crucial in the writings I have not read.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes multiple dierent arguments and their intersection. I have endeavoured to organise the present essay in as accessible a manner as possible, but this can only ameliorate these problems to some extent. Third, it often has profoundly counterproductive psychological eects. Its an unfortunate fact that it is often easier to convince someone of the falsity of a theory or the wrongness of a policy by focusing upon a single objection to it, rather than aiming to present several equally serious objections. We all have a nite amount of attention, and thus a limited ability to cope with barrages of arguments, and these unavoidable limitations can often lead to us dismissing arguments that overload our attentional capacities. This phenomenon is a serious problem in many mainstream political debates, where certain multifariously awed ideas often survive precisely because no unitary line of attack upon them is obvious. I will beg the reader to pay attention (ironically enough) to this phenomenon, and endeavour not to take the lack of a singular criticism as a point in favour of the position criticised. This brings me to the last substantive point in the current prolegomena, regarding the nature of philosophical disagreement and its presentation. Harman has complained to me before that I fail to follow the proper procedure for engaging with a discursive opponent in my more informal debates with him: rst outlining the areas in which one agrees with ones interlocutor, before proceeding to outline the relevant disagreements.17 My response to this criticism is that, sometimes, there simply arent enough points of agreement to make this more than an empty gesture. My own commitments, which I have endeavoured to keep out of the present paper wherever possible,18 are quite radically dierent from Harmans, and this leaves little ground for praise on my part. Nevertheless,

This was written in private correspondence.

For an unpolished overview of my own position, I recommend reading the available draft of my Essay on Transcendental Realism (http://deontologistics. wordpress.com/2010/05/essay-on-transcendental-realism.pdf). This is a rough draft that has yet to be revised and expanded for publication, but it does a reasonable job of outlining the central themes of my work.


Speculations III I will mention six areas in which there is something resembling agreement between us: (i) we both think that correlationism is problematic; (ii) we both hold that individuality is an important metaphysical topic; (iii) we agree that there is more to panpsychism than is often thought; (iv) we each take it that aesthetics is an important philosophical eld with wider ramications than commonly accepted; (v) we are jointly committed to both the possibility and necessity of metaphysics in some form; and (vi) we strongly agree that realism is essential if it is to be pursued properly. The problem is that once we begin to dene what is meant by the core terms in each case (correlationism, individuality, panpsychism, aesthetics, metaphysics, and realism) the agreements are revealed as fairly supercial: (i) I agree with Meillassoux19 that the essence of correlationism is epistemological rather than metaphysical, and that it must be challenged on this terrain rather than dismissed as ontologically arrogant; (ii) I think that there can be no study of the metaphysics of individuality that does not begin with its logic (e.g., identication, quantication, existential commitment, etc.) rather than leaping headlong into intuitive speculation; (iii) the features of the history of panpsychism I am concerned with (e.g., Spinoza, Leibniz, Nietzsche, Whitehead, and Deleuze) consist in their generalisation of non-intentional features of thought (i.e., conation and sensation); (iv) Im convinced that aesthetics, as the study of a certain kind of value, has less to do with the sensations and feelings that signal its presence than the actions this demands of us; (v) I predict that a return to metaphysical speculation without the methodological awareness accompanying an answer to the question what is metaphysics? is doomed to failure; and (vi) I think that there can be no viable realism without a denition of real more subtle than that which is always other than our knowledge of it. This is all I will say about these disagreements for now. The criticisms upon which they turn will be revealed as we
19 Speculative Realism in Collapse III: Unknown Deleuze, 445-446, in conversation with Peter Hallward.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes look at Harmans arguments themselves. I will group these arguments on the basis of the aspect of his system that they underpin (withdrawal, the fourfold, and vicarious causation, respectively), such that the order of the following subsections corresponds directly to the order of those in the previous section. Each subsection will deal with a number of dierent arguments of varying strength and complexity, with varying degrees of reconstruction on my part. Each will also be smaller than the last, as the relevant arguments build upon one another. I will do my best to indicate exegetical concerns surrounding my reconstructions, but my aim is to present the strongest possible forms of each argument, so as to make the corresponding criticisms as strong as possible. This is the core feature of the respect owed to OOP discussed in the introduction. a) Tools, Knowledge, and Distinctness Harman has a several arguments for his account of withdrawal. By far the most famous is the reading of Heideggers tool-analysis, presented in his rst book: Tool-Being. However, despite the fact that the tool-analysis is referred to and summarised to dierent degrees all over Harmans work, it remains fairly opaque in its logical structure.20 This is principally because, as much as it gets referred to as if it were a single argument, it is really a blend of a number of distinct arguments, mixing all three forms of exposition discussed above: historical, phenomenological, and metaphysical. Disentangling these expository and justicatory strands is dicult enough when focusing on one text, but its manifold presentation confronts us with some serious choices about how to go about doing so. I have decided to focus upon two presentations of the analysis: the original and most detailed presentation of it in Tool-Being, and a more recent and concise
20 To give a representative example, in the collection Towards Speculative Realism (Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2010), 8 out of 11 essays contain truncated summaries of the tool-analysis.


Speculations III presentation of it in Harmans Meillassoux book.21 I highly recommend reading the relevant sections of these texts along with my reconstruction of the tool-analysis, so as to conrm the delity of my reconstruction. These preliminaries aside, I will break the tool-analysis down into two separate parts. I call these the argument from execution and the argument from excess. This will be followed by an examination of an additional argument that often accompanies them, which I call the argument from identity. i) Harmans Heidegger Before delving into the details of the tool-analysis, its necessary to address the exegetical elephant in the room. I have already announced my disagreement with Harmans reading of Heidegger. Harman is very clear that his version of the tool-analysis is not one that Heidegger would himself endorse, and that as such it must be assessed on its own merits. This is precisely what I intend to do. However, in line with the earlier remarks about the role of historical narrative, it will be helpful to present the crucial errors of Harmans reading of Heidegger as I see them. On the one hand, this inoculates against any illicit slip from exposition to justication, and, on the other, it helps to situate many of the issues Harman is dealing with within their correct historical context. There are ve principal aspects of Harmans reading with which I disagree: (i) he reads Heideggers critique of presence as championing a complementary notion of execution; (ii) he takes the distinction between the ontological and the ontic to be equivalent to the distinction between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand, respectively; (iii) he claims that the world should not be understood as a phenomenological horizon; (iv) he holds that Dasein is not central to Heideggers ontology; and (v) he identies the encounter with the broken tool with the as-structure. Im going to tackle these disagreements by addressing several characteristic criticisms that Harman

Graham Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, 135-136.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes deploys liberally against other interpreters of Heidegger. If understanding these exegetical points is of little interest to you, you might wish to skip the rest of this section, though I dont recommend it. To begin with, Harman repeatedly criticises other interpreters for mistaking the signicance of the distinction between readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit) and presence-at-hand (Vorhandenheit) for a distinction between types of entity. He zealously reminds his readers that ready-to-hand entities are not those specic things that happen to be used as tools by humans, but rather that any extant entity may be taken as ready-to-hand or present-at-hand.22 This point is certainly misunderstood by a number of interpreters. However, even when combined with his reading of Heideggers use of the word mere (Blo) to denigrate the status of presence (Anweisenheit),23 this does not show that Heidegger is championing a complementary notion of execution (Vollzug) as the real meaning of Being that the metaphysical tradition overlooked. On the contrary, it is possible to view this as a distinction between dierent modes of Being (Seinsarten/Seinsweisen) without reducing it to a distinction between mutually exclusive types of beings. This is precisely how Heidegger describes the distinction, and it will connect to the other exegetical points still to be made.24 Moreover, the fact that Harman develops this notion of execution into a new conception of substance (ousia), bemoaning the inability of Heidegger commentators to see the connection between Zuhandenheit and ousia,25 indicates he has diverged from Heidegger somewhere earlier down the line.26
22 23

Cf. Harman, Tool-Being, 38.

Ibid., 48-49.

24 Cf. Martin Heidegger, Basic Problems of Phenomenology (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988), 305; Martin Heidegger, Metaphysical Foundations of Logic (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1984), 151-152. 25

Harman, Tool-Being, 270.

Heideggers criticism of presence is inexorably tied up with his critique of substance, at least in his most systematic presentations of it (Cf. Introduction to Metaphysics).


Speculations III Secondly, Harman claims that Heideggers insights cannot be truly ontological ones if they are taken to be understood in terms of the intelligibility of entities to Dasein. The argument for this essentially boils down to the idea that intelligibility to Dasein is seeming for Dasein, and Harman denes Being as opposed to seeming.27 For Harman, ontology is the study of beings as they are in themselves, as distinct from their appearances. This is almost the opposite move made by most orthodox Heidegger scholars, who dene Being as the intelligibility of beings as distinct from any metaphysical conception of the underlying grounds of this intelligibility. For them, ontology is the study of appearances freed from the mistaken metaphysical search for substantial basis of these appearances. Both of these readings are seriously misguided insofar as Heidegger does not dene Being in either way. However, each has an element of truth to it. In line with the orthodox interpretation, he tries to argue against the metaphysical tradition that Being is to be understood in terms of intelligibility (unconcealing). In line with Harmans interpretation, he also thinks that something must be said about that which resists or escapes intelligibility (concealing). His later work in particular attempts to show that the revelation of each entity to our understanding is tempered by its situation within a broader eld of meaning (world) which is always in tension with reality in itself (earth). Every entity thus appears as a local modication of this global struggle (strife/truth). Thirdly, this brings us to Harmans criticism that, in interpreting Heideggers use of world as a phenomenological horizon within which entities appear to each given Dasein, Heidegger scholars have stumbled into a disastrous regress towards ever deeper unitary grounds (e.g., Zeitlichkeit, Temporalitt, Ereignis, etc.). He even parodies this regress by way of a childrens sleepover game.28 However, again, as much as this is a legitimate lampooning of the stylistic and exegetical excesses of much Heidegger scholarship, this does not amount

See fn. 15. Harman, Tool-Being, 27.



Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes to a proof that there is no well dened regress of unitary grounds in Heidegger. Even if there is a certain overworn argumentative trope in Heidegger, this does not excuse us from examining the specicities of its instances. It is thus entirely possible (and desirable) to determine that there are only a specic number of steps in Heideggers analyses, and that they actually have an end point in some more or less well delimited unitary structure (e.g., Temporalitt in the early work, or Ereignis in the later work). Harmans alternative is to read world as a complete totality of entities rather than a phenomenological horizon in which they appear. This is a disastrous misreading, and is explicitly counselled against by Heidegger.29 Fourthly, this sets the stage for Harmans attack on anthropocentric readings of Heidegger. Although Harman recognises that Heidegger himself grants Dasein ontological privilege, he takes this to be entirely unnecessary, insofar as every entity can be interpreted as a for-the-sake-of-which engaging with other things in terms of projective understanding.30 Harman explicitly claims that although Heidegger uses the term understanding (Verstand) here, this can be interpreted non-anthropocentrically as covering all interactions between things. This is indicative of a really pernicious misunderstanding of Heideggers project that underlies the other points addressed so far. To briey summarise Heideggers account of understanding: he thinks that Dasein relates to the things it encounters in terms of the possibilities for action that they provide it, and that what characterises Dasein qua Dasein (Existenz) is that set of conditions (Existentiale) without which Dasein could not count as freely choosing, and thus acting in any real sense. Harman is fond of ridiculing Heideggers analysis of the mode of Being of animality as distinct from Daseins mode of existence, precisely because he fails to see that Heidegger is describing entities that have similar be29 Cf. Martin Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994), 67. 30

Harman, Tool-Being, 41-42.


Speculations III havioural capacities to Dasein (drives) that nevertheless lack the specic conditions of organisation that enable choice (as opposed to mere disinhibition).31 This ties back to the third point: Harman cannot see what it would be to be world-poor insofar as he does not see what it would be for something to have a world in Heideggers sense: an internally articulated space of possible action (i.e., the projection of what is possible), involving a grasp of both generality and particularity (e.g., the possibilities of pens as such, and the possibilities of this pen, respectively), in isolation and situation (e.g., the possibilities of this pen in relation to paper as such, and the possibilities of this pen in relation to that piece of paper, respectively), organised in terms of a hierarchy of ends (e.g., the end of writing a letter, itself a means to maintaining a friendship, itself a means to... etc.) united by the fundamental goal of becoming oneself (i.e., Dasein as its own for-the-sake-of-which). Entities appear in the world for Heidegger insofar as they modify this space of possibility: their actuality consists in the way they open up certain specic possibilities for action while closing down others. This in turn ties back to the second point: Harman cannot see that dierences in modes of Being (e.g., Zuhandenheit, Vorhandenheit, Existenz, etc.) are not simple dierences between types of beings, insofar as he does not see the dierent ways they are supposed to be individuated as actualities within the world qua space of possibility. So, it is true that all spatio-temporally located particulars are both ready-to-hand and present-at-hand in some sense (even if the space and time in question are not straightforwardly identical), but this is a matter of the dierence between our grasp of possibilities as tied to the everyday forms of activity we inherit from the culture we are thrown into (e.g., pens qua writing implements), and our grasp of possibilities as abstracted from these activities (e.g., pens qua ink-lled molded plastic), respectively. Fifthly, then, this brings us to Harmans persistent criticisms of pragmatist readings of Heidegger in general, and of the

Cf. Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, part 2, ch. 3-6.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes tool-analysis more specically. These are inexorably bound up with the other criticisms already presented, but there is an important additional dimension here: his claim that Heideggers concern with the use of equipment has nothing to do with use as we normally understand it, but should be understood as a matter of reliance upon equipment.32 It is the fact that reliance is an essentially causal notion that underpins his claim that all interactions between entities can be described as entities understanding one another as something, and the development of this into the claim that all such interactions are analogous to the encounter with the broken-tool. Well return to the independent methodological problems with this claim, but for now it serves to point out the sheer extent to which this misunderstands Heideggers account of the as-structure and its relation to the broken-tool encounter. The crucial point is that Heidegger distinguishes between the hermeneutic as and the apophantic as, and associates these with the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand, respectively. The relationship between the former thereby circumscribes the relationship between the latter, and it is essentially a matter of the relation between implicitness and explicitness, respectively. It is important to understand that the as is indicative of generality. We grasp something as something insofar as we grasp a particular as an instance of a general type. The idea behind the split in the as-structure is that the grasp of generality involved here can be articulated in two distinct ways, even if these forms of articulation are fundamentally inseparable and always combined in dierent degrees. We grasp the entities around us principally through the hermeneutic as insofar as the specic possibilities we are immediately presented with by them (e.g., writing a letter) are articulated by an implicit grasp of the general types of equipment they instantiate (e.g., pens and paper qua equipment for writing). This implicit grasp is the condition of interpretation, which is the process through which we reconsider these immedi32

Harman, Tool-Being, 18-21.


Speculations III ate possibilities, taking them apart and bringing forth the generalities that articulate them. However, this process of interpretation is not yet linguistic: it is the move to making assertions about entities that transforms the hermeneutic as into the apophantic as. These involve the use of special linguistic equipment to isolate and then re-articulate the general possibilities that constitute these types. This enables a process of progressive abstraction which extricates the causal capacities of entities from the normative functions through which our everyday understanding grasps them. The present-at-hand is nothing but the correlate of the limit-case of this process of abstraction. It is not constituted by pure presence, or actuality devoid of possibility, but rather by pure capacity, or possibility devoid of function. The exemplars of the present-at-hand are those entities posited by science independently of any role they could have in everyday practices (e.g., electrons, black holes, mitochondria, etc.). Science is thus hardly the domain of pure presence in this vacuous sense, but rather the forefront of our attempt to work out what is really possible, over and above the expectations implicit in our parochial forms of life. The encounter with the broken-tool must be understood in terms of this complex interplay between causal capacity and normative function. The important thing to realise is that the tool cannot break unless it behaves in a way it is not supposed to: there is no malfunction without proper function. It is the fact that we grasp equipment (e.g., pen and paper) in terms of a set of normatively articulated everyday activities (e.g., letter writing, drawing, doodling, etc.) that enables it to surprise us by failing to behave as it should in the context of those activities (e.g., the pen leaking ink all over the paper). This means that we must already encounter the equipment as equipment: without a prior hermeneutic as, nothing can break. This prior as forms the basis of the response to the encounter, insofar as the surprise malfunction incites us to re-interpret our grasp of the tools possibilities. This interpretation can then either stay at the hermeneutic level, or be developed apophantically by using assertions to draw 318

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes out the causal capacities the tool possesses independently of its functional role; or rather, independently of its status as a tool. It is in this sense that the encounter with the broken-tool amounts to a transition between the tool as ready-to-hand and the tool as present-at-hand: it is an invitation to a dierent form of understanding. What all this reveals is that Harmans reading cannot be an interpretation of the substance of Heideggers ideas, even one that Heidegger himself would disagree with. It is possible to read thinkers against themselves, but this requires that there is some essential element present in their work that the work itself fails to live up to.33 The element that Harman tries to unearth in Heideggers tool-analysis simply isnt there.34 The only reason he can propose to extend the intentional relation between Dasein and its tools to cover all interactions between entities is that he has stripped this relation of everything that makes it recognisably Heideggerian. He has excised the structure of projective understanding wholesale, and thereby completely abandoned the semantic and epistemological framework within which the encounter with the tool is described. This becomes clear once we ask the question: just what would it be for a screen door to encounter a knife as a knife?35 To say that this is for it to be aected by it in a way that is common to all knives is to say nothing that warrants using the word encounter in an intentional
33 This is a hermeneutic strategy that Brandom calls de re interpretation, as opposed to de dicto interpretation: the attempt to be faithful to the subject matter, rather than the words used to express it (Tales of the Mighty Dead, ch. 1).

Another point to make here about Harmans reading qua reading is that even if there were some evidence that Heidegger did see the tool-analysis in something resembling this way, then it would still be far fetched, given the extent of the other aspects of Heideggers work it invalidates: theory, mood, space, time, etc. (cf. Tool-Being, 4-7) Harman gives us a long list of features of his thought that Heidegger can say nothing specic about despite his sincere and extensive attempts to do so. The sheer amount of Heideggers work that Harmans reading disqualies thus constitutes a pretty good reductio ad absurdum of it as a reading of Heidegger, even if we ignore the misunderstandings just discussed.
34 35

This is Harmans own example (Tool-Being, 30-32).


Speculations III sense. The screen door has nothing that could qualify it as having anything like an awareness of generality. There is no hermeneutic as circumscribing its engagements with things. This leaves us saying that what it is for a screen door to interact with a knife qua knife is for it to be aected in the way that knives aect screen doors. This is an empty tautology unworthy of metaphysical scrutiny.36 ii) The Argument from Execution The principal argument derived from the tool-analysis in Tool-Being is what I have called the argument from execution. This argument aims to establish that the reality of entities consists in their execution (or tool-being), and on this basis to demonstrate that they withdraw from all epistemic and causal contact. Harman takes the method of the argument to be a matter of phenomenological description, insofar as it is a purported reconstruction of Heideggers own phenomenological analysis.37 The point of this analysis is to reveal the absolute invisibility of objects qua execution, by presenting three interrelated characterisations of execution: as causal capacity (or eect), as pure action (or impact), and as functional role (or reference). However, as weve already noted, Harman provides no clarication regarding the nature of his phenomenological method, or how it can be expected to yield metaphysical results. This is complicated by the fact that many of Harmans claims are patently more metaphysical than phenomenological. This raises the possibility that in some cases he has simply imported metaphysical assumptions instead of collecting phenomenological evidence. We will thus have to be very careful to keep all the elements of his analyses separate in reconstructing their logical form. Harmans take on Heideggers phenomenological analysis opens by specifying its object: our ubiquitous encounters
36 For a further example of Harmans attempt to universalise the as-structure in this way, see his discussion of tectonic plates towards the end of Tool-Being (221-222). 37

Harman, Tool-Being, 18.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes with the entities that we use in the course of living. His break with Heideggers analysis occurs already in this rst paragraph:
Heidegger demonstrates that our primary interaction with beings comes through using them, through simply counting on them in an unthematic way. For the most part, objects are implements taken for granted, a vast environmental backdrop supporting the thin and volatile layer of our explicit activities. All human action nds itself lodged amidst countless items of supporting equipment: the most nuanced debates in a laboratory stand at the mercy of a silent bedrock of oorboards, bolts, ventilators, gravity, and atmospheric oxygen.38

This break is subtle, and does not become completely apparent until a few pages later, when he explicitly substitutes the word rely for use.39 The examples that Harman focuses on are indicative of this shift. Gone is the emphasis upon equipment actively deployed toward a goal (e.g., hammers, cars, signals, etc.), to be replaced with a focus upon equipment necessary to passively sustain a given state (e.g., ventilators, gravity, oxygen, etc.). It is not that Heidegger is not concerned with some examples of this kindsustaining a state is as eligible a goal as achieving onebut rather that Harman narrows the scope of the analysis by collapsing active use into passive reliance, while simultaneously expanding its scope to include cases of dependence that lack anything that could be construed as awareness of the thing depended upon. This move both enables execution to take on the role of persistence we saw earlier, and facilitates the universalisation of intentionality to encompass all objects and the aying of Heideggers account of intentionality that accompanies it. We can already see the pretence of phenomenology slipping here. Harman has subtly shifted the focus of his analysis from our practical comportment toward things to our causal dependence upon them. We are invited to conclude that phe38

Harman, Tool-Being, 18. Ibid., 20.



Speculations III nomenological description is apt to describe my relation to my internal organs, the geological strata that I stand upon, or the delicate balance of environmental factors necessary for life on earth in a manner analogous to my relation to the various socially delineated props I passively engage in carrying out everyday tasks. Harman balances this shift upon a delicate ambiguity in the sense in which encounters with things can be unconscious or unthematic.40 It consists in misunderstanding what Heidegger calls circumspection (Umsicht). Heideggers concern with this sort of unthematic understanding was to provide a phenomenological analysis of comportments that lacked a specic kind of awareness, rather than lacking awareness as such. He would not consider my relation to my internal organs to be an intentional relation unless it consisted in some implicit grasp of general ways in which they are involved within practical activities, either as obstacles (e.g. an awareness of my ckle digestive system) or resources (e.g., the metabolic control some yogic masters have achieved), or some explicit grasp of their general modal features (e.g., the theoretical understanding of a biologist or surgeon). Harman essentially substitutes Heideggers concern with the unconscious encounter as awareness without attention, for a concern with it as dependence without awareness. Bearing all this in mind, we can turn to the rst step in Harmans analysis. This is his claim that what we encounter in relying upon equipment is its causal capacity to produce the specic eect that we rely upon. This is his rst characterisation of the execution that constitutes the reality of the tool, and he vehemently opposes it to the idea that the tool consists in the ways humans expect to use it: Equipment is not eective because people use it; on the contrary, it can only be used because it is capable of an eect, of inicting some kind of blow on reality. In short, the tool isnt usedit is.41

It is also helped by an ambiguity in the sense of reliance, which can be read either as an intentional relation involving an expectation regarding whatever is relied upon, or as a matter of brute causal dependence. Harman, Tool-Being, 20.



Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes On the face of it, this is a perfectly good inferencesuccessful reliance upon a thing demands that it possess the causal capacity to produce the eect relied uponbut the way it is introduced and used by Harman is questionable precisely insofar as it is metaphysical rather than phenomenological. Harman is already straying into metaphysics in describing the thing as consisting in this capacity, rather than simply possessing it, and he will stray further when he eshes out his characterisation of this capacity qua execution. He does not linger in this register though. He rapidly returns to phenomenology when he insists upon the invisibility of this capacity.42 However, invisibility is apparent only insofar as we focus upon precisely those un-Heideggerian cases that Harman has smuggled in. This paradoxical revelation of invisibility essentially consists in our discovery that we really have no awareness of those things we depend upon without awarenessat least that is, until we turn our phenomenological gaze upon them. This has no force whatsoever, because there is no correlation between dependence and awareness either way. Prima facie, it is entirely possible for me to be aware or not aware of the things I depend on, to varying degrees.43 Let us move deeper into the nature of execution and its purported invisibility then. The second characterisation of execution is its status as pure action, and it has two aspects. First, the equipment is never what it is simply because it is capable of an eect, but must also enact this eect at every moment: Equipment is forever in action, constructing each moment the sustaining habitat where our explicit awareness is on the move.44 Second, this perpetual action is unitary, insofar as its eect cannot be broken down into subsidiary actions that might be held in reserve. It must be an agent
42 43

Harman, Tool-Being, 21.

No doubt some will claim that although there may indeed be degrees of awareness, this never amounts to complete awareness, and that this is sufcient to underwrite the putatively absolute character of invisibility. This is a entirely separate argument, which I will deal with in the next section as the argument from excess. Ibid., 18.



Speculations III thoroughly deployed in reality, as an impact irreducible to any list of properties that might be tabulated by an observer.45 There are at least two distinct tensions inherent in this characterisation: a modal tension between possibility and actuality, and a temporal tension between dynamism and stasis. The former comes from the contrast between this and the rst characterisation of execution in terms of capacity, insofar as it attens whatever possible eects a thing might have into its current actual eects. The latter comes from the characterisation of the thing as always already in action, an act whose occurrence is such that we only encounter it in a state of silent repose, or diachronic transition so pure it is the very essence of synchronic persistence. These tensions are seemingly constitutive for the invisibility of equipment. Try as we might to understand any specic capacity, we never reach the unitary eect that silently whirs behind it:
Whatever is visible of the table in any given instant can never be its tool-being, never its readiness-to-hand. However deeply we meditate on the tables act of supporting solid weights, however tenaciously we monitor its presence, any insight that is yielded will always be something quite distinct from this act itself.46

Try as we might to understand the way an occurrence unfolds, the things it involves are events already past yet ongoing: A tool exists in the manner of enacting itself; only derivatively can it be discussed or otherwise mulled over. Try as hard as we might to capture the hidden execution of equipment, we will always lag behind.47 Harman provokes us like a zen master wielding a koan: a pure act rests behind all supercial acts, a pure actuality grounds all potential actualities. One hand claps slowly.48 It now seems we may have gone too deep after all. What

Harman, Tool-Being, 21. Ibid.

46 47

Ibid., 22. Before withdrawing into itself, and disappearing in a pu of metaphysics.



Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes should we make of these tensions within the account of execution from the perspective of the split between phenomenology and metaphysics? At best, they constitute a brute phenomenological description of dubious plausibility. Despite the general paradox of the accessibility of inaccessibility, and the more specic paradoxes of modality and temporality it poses us with, we might simply have to throw up our arms and admit: Well, things do seem this way, just like he says! Even so, we would have to be receptive to any analysis that could dissolve these seeming paradoxes, as opposed to simply harnessing them. At worst, they constitute a series of strange and strained metaphysical assumptions extending the reication of capacity carried out by the rst characterisation, assumptions we are given anything but good reason to endorse. Just what is really going on here? Harman seems to have transposed the phenomenological analysis of tools as deployed in actionswhich he otherwise ignored in favour passive dependenceinto a metaphysics of tools as actions. This has a peculiar eect that can best be described as performative phenomenology. The revelation of invisibility is an artefact of the way in which it is introduced. The general paradox is underwritten by the specic ones. We encounter the invisibility of equipment as the ineability engendered by the impossible tensions in the ways in which it is described. The supposed demonstration of epistemic inaccessibility is actually an elaborate numbing of our epistemic faculties, performed by multiplying the incompatible aspects of the mysterious withdrawn tool. Single hands dont clap after all.49 We now turn to the third and nal characterisation of execution: as functional role. This builds upon the previous two characterisations by articulating the eect which the capacity produces in its pure action as a means to an end of some sort. This is how Harman cashes out Heideggers account of reference (Verweis): he takes every entity to refer to those things the persistence of which depends upon its own persistence. The reference of a things execution is another thing whose

It turns out to have been a pu of logic, after all.


Speculations III execution it sustains. Reference and dependence are thus unied into a single relation of functional dependence. This is responsible for Harmans machinic descriptions of entities, insofar as it underwrites his discussion of dependence relations in mereological terms, not merely as between part and whole, but as between component and system. What happens here is that the causal capacities actualised in composition get transformed into normative functions through being normatively underwritten by the whole they actually compose. The various girders, nuts, and bolts that compose a bridge are simultaneously depended upon by the bridge and captured in executing their functional role in sustaining the bridge as a systematic eect on which further things depend.50 It is this interpretation of reference relations that collapses Heideggers account of world into a simple totality, insofar as it takes them to hold exclusively between individuals, understood in terms of their actual states, rather than a complex horizon that involves relations between both types and instances, understood in terms of their possible states. According to Harman, this characterisation implies the second fundamental aspect of Heideggers tool-analysis: what he calls the tools totality as opposed to its invisibility. To understand this, its important to see that Harman takes functional dependence to extend beyond intuitive forms of mereological dependence (e.g., dependence upon my internal organs), to include things like environmental dependence (e.g., my dependence upon external factors such as gravity and oxygen), and even goes so far as to incorporate negative dependence relations (e.g., my dependence on a meteorite not falling from space into me). Moreover, although both dependence and reference are asymmetric relations, they go in opposite directions: if x depends on y then y refers to x, and each relation is transitive, meaning that: if x depends on y and y depends on z, then x depends on z, and therefore also that z refers to x. Given all this, the world becomes a network of functional dependence relations, in which each specic

Harman, Tool-Being, 22-25.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes entity is individuated through its location relative to everything else. The bridge is what it is in virtue of depending upon precisely what it actually depends upon, and supporting precisely what it actually supports; the same is true for every nut, bolt, girder, and environmental condition upon which it depends, which includes everything upon which they depend, ad innitum, and for every passing traveller, supply chain, or local business it exists in aid of, and everything they in turn support, ad innitum. This converts the world from a simple totality of disparate individuals into a unied individual in its own right: the plurality of local systems of execution become an integrated network of components in a single global system, or world-machine.51 The numerous ends at which execution aims are subsumed within a single system of ends, the ultimate purpose of which can only be to sustain the system itself. This produces a relational tension alongside the modal and temporal tensions we have already uncovered, but it is more complicated insofar as it arises from a conict between the relational holism Harman attributes to Heidegger and the radical individualism that he aims to derive from the principles on which it is founded. The tension consists in Harmans attempt to convert holism into individualism by transforming execution from something individuated through the functional dependence relations it is bound up in, to something prior to these relations which makes them possible. It becomes manifest in the way he connects totality and invisibility through the characterisation of execution as functional role. His attempt to derive invisibility from functionality is far more reminiscent of Heidegger than the other arguments for invisibility weve discussed: The function or reference of the tool is eective not as an explicit sign or symbol, but as something that vanishes into the work to which it is assigned.52 For Heidegger, our attention is inevitably drawn towards the immediate ends of our activity, rather than the

Harman, Tool-Being, 33. Ibid., 25, my emphasis.



Speculations III various subordinate tasks and the means they involve. We focus upon what were doing with the hammerputting up shelvesrather than the mechanics of the hammer and our use of it. Nevertheless, this phenomenological insight is not meant to preclude the possibility of turning our attention to any of these easily overlooked details. Our awareness of the task as an articulated whole enables us to shift our attention back to any aspect of it. We shift focus to our grip upon the hammer, thereby adjusting it to optimise the force we can achieve at the odd angle the space allows us. Harmans reading warps this insight: the activity becomes the thing, and the focus of our attention upon the end of the activity becomes the vanishing of our awareness of the thing into whatever it sustains. This mutates further when exposed to his totalising logic of reference: all awareness vanishes into the worldmachine, as the unitary activity in which everything plays its sustaining role.53 So far then, Harman appears to have derived the invisibility of everything but the world as a whole from his functional account of individuation. Perhaps the strangest move is still to come though, because he converts this claim about invisibility back into a claim about individuation: Every being is entirely absorbed into this world-system, assigned to further possibilities in such a way that there could never be any singular end-point within the contexture of reference. In the strict sense, the world has no parts.54 It is not merely the visibility of the parts but their distinctness which collapses into the wholevanishing becomes absorption. This is highly problematic, because it uses an account of the articulation of systems into distinct components to deny that there is any such articulation at all. It presupposes the fact that there are distinct entities with dierentiated capacities that can be combined and congured in a variety of ways, only to interpret this combination and conguration in such a way as to deny the distinctness that it is predicated upon. We would be

Harman, Tool-Being, 32-33. Ibid., 43.



Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes forgiven for insisting upon a reductio ad absurdum of some, if not most, of Harmans premises at this point. He does indeed intend to perform a reductio of sorts, but it is not the one we might expect, and indeed, should insist upon.55 He ignores the inconsistency at the heart of his account of functionality in favour of the contradiction between his account of invisibility and the existence of objects as a glaring experiential fact.56 He in turn allies this with a further apparent contradiction implied by the account: If [it] were the case, physical causation could never occur, since there would be no individual objects, but only a single system, with no explanations for why this system should ever alter...57 The issues of diachronic causal interaction (as opposed to synchronic causal dependence) and the appearance of a multiplicity of distinct objects (as opposed to the reality of unitary execution) are hereby intertwined. What is Harmans reductio then? What is it that converts Heideggers purported holism into his radical individualism? The answer is the introduction of the break between the real and the sensualwhich is to say, the core of the account of withdrawal. This emerges in his interpretation of the as-structure and the way he identies it with the broken-tool encounter.58 The principal motivation for this theoretical supplement is its ability to diuse the live contradictions hovering in the background. However, it will only be warranted if it can integrate the three facets of the account of execution into the individualist account of substance, at least in outline, and thereby dissolve the relational tension between this and its functional foundations. How this is supposed to work, and whether it can also dissolve the accompanying modal and temporal tensions is now our principal concern. Ill tackle it one contradiction at a time. On the one hand, Harman aims to resolve the contradiction between functional totality and apparent individuality

Harman, Tool-Being, 43. Ibid.

56 57

Ibid., 34. Ibid., 4.



Speculations III by re-conceiving the very notion of appearance itself. Harmans concern with invisibility up until this point has turned upon an implicit conception of awareness, which, as we have seen, has not yet been made explicit through the provision of a phenomenological methodology. Nevertheless, the invisibility of things has been shown through purportedly phenomenological analyses of the scope of this awareness. What now changes is that the phenomenal aspect of this implicit conception is explicitly severed from the epistemic aspect: awareness is split in two, so that multiple individuals may phenomenally appear, even while the singular whole from which they appear epistemically withdraws. We can see the hammer, but we can never know the intricate system that harbours its hidden essence. This rift constitutes the dierence between the hammer as presence and the hammer as execution, the hammer as hammer and the hammer in itself, and the malfunctioning hammer and the functioning hammer, respectively. It permits the conversion from invisible to visible in the encounter with the broken tool precisely because the underlying execution of the tool is not really made visible. The malfunction throws o an epistemically irrelevant husk that can at best hint at the silent reality of proper functioning. On the other hand, Harman aims to resolve the contradiction between functional xity and apparent change by uniting the question of causal interaction and the question of phenomenal presence. Although this is often hinted at, it only becomes completely explicit towards the end of ToolBeing itself:
the time has come to admit to the reader that I have been guilty of a deliberate over-simplication...In fact, it is impermissible to replace the tool/broken tool distinction with the dierence between causality and visibility. For it turns out that even brute causation already belongs to the realm of presence-at-hand.59


Harman, Tool-Being, 221.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes If we accept Harmans identication of presence with malfunction, then this makes a certain amount of sense. If the world is taken to have a xed order insofar as it is constituted by a network of functional dependence relations, then any change to this order must amount to a break with these relations, and thus to a malfunction of some sort. This would make the question of interaction/presence a matter of explaining how components rebel against the systems in which they are seemingly subsumed, so as to generate the abundance of individuality in our phenomenal experience. This is not a question Harman takes the tool-analysis to answer. He simply takes it to have posed the problem in the correct terms. Nevertheless, he insists that the analysis implies that any solution must move beyond the appearance of individuality to the reality of individuality, because entities can break with the functional order in which they are enmeshed only if they hold something in reserve that is not determined by this order.60 This is where the relational tension becomes most acute: just how is the account of execution that implies holism to be modied so as to permit the individualism it seemingly demands? The tension is more serious than might be initially apparent. This is because Harman extends the identication of presence with causality beyond diachronic interaction to include the cases of synchronic dependence upon which his initial characterisations of execution were built. This can be seen in his example of a bulky metal appliance sitting upon a frozen lake: When the lake supports the appliance, this act of supporting unfolds entirely within the as-structure, not within the kingdom of tool-being.61 It is this move that enables Harman to convert the distinction between execution and presence into the distinction between substance and relation, insofar as it enables him to treat all causal relations in the same way. Whatever is held in reserve in order to change
60 61

Harman, Tool-Being, 229-230.

Ibid., 223.


Speculations III the relations of functional (and thus causal) dependence that entities are bound up in withdraws from all current relations, as the substance that underlies them. However, as Harman continues: This raises the following question: if the fact that the frozen lake supports an object is not its tool-being, then what is?62 As he puts it slightly earlier: In short, tool-being is not at all what we have thought it was up till now. It must lie at a still deeper level than that of force or relation. It is no longer an eect as opposed to an appearance, but rather an executant being that is neither of these.63 We are once more told what execution is not, but we are still none the wiser about just what it is. Here is where we stand then. The relational tension consists in the fact that Harmans individualist conception of execution as substance is incompatible with the holistic conception of execution as functional role from which it is derived, but he does not make clear which aspects of the latter conception are abandoned, and thus precisely how the former diers from it, apart from its purported individualism. He does not stop characterising execution in terms of function.64 He continues to think of objects in terms of systematic unity.65 When he needs to talk about the substantial reserve that necessitates individuality, he simply turns to his earlier characterisations of execution: it stands independent of all relations as an actuality richer than all possibility66 and prior to all eects as a real execution, silently resting in its vacuum-sealed actuality67 Far from dissolving the modal and temporal tensions discussed above, he intensies them, and he nowhere provides us an account of how the functional character of execution is to be curtailed, let alone how it is to be integrated with its status as capacity and act. When they are acknowledged, the three
62 63

Harman, Tool-Being, 223. Cf. Ibid., 285. Ibid., 229.

Ibid., 222. Cf. Ibid., 288.

64 65

66 67

Ibid., 283.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes tensions we have located (modal, temporal, and relational) are presented as paradoxical intuitions that open up room for further metaphysical speculation, but, at best, they are an argument left hanging.68 Harman has not yet succeeded in discharging the contradictions that arise from his assumptions. He has failed to provide us with a good reason to adopt his partial reconstruction of what he takes to be Heideggers inconsistent system, rather than simply rejecting its core presuppositions. How does this reect upon the relation between phenomenology and metaphysics? Lets take one last look. I think the core methodological issues emerge from the attempt to provide an account of modality. Here it is useful to contrast Harmans approach with the brief summary of Heidegger we provided earlier. Heidegger provides us with is an intricate modal epistemology. He builds a phenomenological framework within which he analyses both our understanding of the entities we encounter in terms of the normative features they acquire through the practices we are socialised into, the unthematic understanding of the causal features of these entities that is implicit in this, and the various levels of thematic understanding that can be developed out of this. His analysis of the encounter with the broken-tool is a subtle demonstration of the interface between these levels of modal understanding. By contrast, Harmans approach can only be described as modal mysterianism. It begins with phenomenological descriptions of our experience of things, from which it derives a pseudo-Heideggerian functional vocabulary, but almost immediately converts this into a metaphysical inquiry into our causal relations with things, in the process hypostatising this functional vocabulary into a metaphysical teleology. It is important to emphasise how contentious this move is. There are deep and divisive arguments about the reality of functions running from Plato and Aristotle, through Leibniz
68 Harman explicitly presents two unresolved paradoxes at the end of ToolBeing (287-288), but they are not the tensions I have outlined here, which emerge more sporadically throughout the work.


Speculations III and Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, all the way to contemporary debates regarding the correct interpretation of Darwin. Harman makes this move not by providing a compelling reason for it, but by simply ignoring an important methodological distinction. As we have seen, the other claims he makes about the metaphysical basis of causal capacities are equally methodologically suspect. Where Heidegger does his best to delineate the modal relations between normative functions and causal capacities, showing both how they connect and pull apart, Harman systematically conates them under the single heading of execution, which he then fails to sufciently integrate. His purported justication of epistemic inaccessibility on the basis of these modal features (excess) is thus stuck halfway between a questionable attempt to phenomenologically delimit phenomenal access (the revelation of invisibility), and a dubious metaphysical reinterpretation of phenomenal access itself that simultaneously undercuts his phenomenological pretensions (the split in awareness) and fails to provide a coherent account of the inaccessible (the unresolved tensions). The philosophical framework he builds in Tool-Being leaves us with no grasp of what toolbeing is, and simply decreeing thats the point! is to lapse into mysterianism. iii) The Argument from Excess The other argument that Harman associates with the toolanalysis, which I have called the argument from excess, can be found intermingled with elements of the argument from execution at several points in Tool-Being and elsewhere,69 but it becomes the dominant strain of the analysis by the time of his presentation of the tool-analysis in his book on Meillassoux.70 It is fairly brief, and its conclusion is more often
69 Cf. Tool-Being, 96, 98, 223; A Fresh Look at Zuhandenheit, in Towards Speculative Realism, 54-55; The Revival of Metaphysics in Continental Philosophy, in Towards Speculative Realism, 116-117. 70

Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, 135-136.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes simply asserted than properly derived from its premises, but it is possible to reconstruct a reasonably concise version of it on the basis of these examples. I will rst quote the relevant sections from the Meillassoux book, to provide a basis for reconstruction:
In Heideggerian terms it is true that phenomena in consciousness fail to do justice to the full depths of things, to their inscrutable being withdrawn from all presence. Yet it is also the case that the practical handling of entities fails to do them justice as well...human theory and human praxis are both translations or distortions of the subterranean reality of [tool-being], which is no more exhausted by sentient action than by sentient thought.71

He thus opens with an outright assertion of the thesis of withdrawal, but he frames it in two important ways. He articulates it as a matter of the inexhaustibility of tool-being, and he identies theoretical understanding and practical use in terms of their inability to exhaust it. The framing of withdrawal in terms of inexhaustibility will form the centrepiece of the argument, whereas the identication of theory and praxis paves the way for the more controversial identication of knowledge and causation. This is followed by a sort of retroactive argument for withdrawal that works from within this frame:
All of these activities could possibly be linked under the term intentionality, but whereas the intentionality of Brentano and Husserl is a matter of immanent objectivity, we are now concerned with a transcendent kind of object. It is true that the hammer takes on a specic conguration both for the construction worker and for the scientic specialist on hammers (assuming the latter person exists). But what is most relevant here is the transcendent hammer that startles us with surprises, shattering in our hands or rotting and rusting more quickly than expected. The present-at-hand hammer cannot explain these sudden surprises, and hence by subtraction we arrive at the notion of

Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, 135.


Speculations III
a withdrawn, subterranean tool that enters into relation with me and other animate and inanimate entities as well.72

What we have here is an argument that aims to proceed from the obvious fact that the causal capacities of an object can exceed our understanding of them (and thereby surprise us) to the contentious claim that we cannot encounter the real objects in which this excess consists, but only the distinct sensual objects that they withdraw behind. What follows is my best attempt to reconstruct the transition between the two. Ill begin by splitting the obvious fact into two fairly uncontentious claims: i) Our knowledge of things does not exhaust all their features. There is more to them than we actually know. ii) Our causal interactions with things do not exhaust all their capacities. There is more to them than we actualise. The example of somethings causal capacities exceeding our grasp of them is obviously taken from the analysis of the broken-tool, but its real import comes in straddling the divide between (i) and (ii). Although other presentations will emphasise one or the other, the justication of the thesis of withdrawal depends upon equivocating between these two claims in some fashion, be it by leaning upon aspects of the argument from execution (e.g., interpreting praxis as reliance) or simply treating the identity of intentional and causal relations as a given. This equivocation exemplies the collapse of phenomenology and metaphysics into one another discussed earlier. What is important is that the combination of (i) and (ii) gets interpreted in a somewhat more contentious way than either of them: iii) Our knowledge/interactions can never exhaust all the features/capacities of things. There is more to them than we could possibly encounter.

Harman, Quentin Meillassoux, 136.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes This move converts a factual excess of features/capacities into an essential excess. The move is strictly illicit, but, although it leads to a stronger claim than either (i) or (ii), it is still not all that contentious. There are many who would agree with (iii) for independent reasons, or simply because it is reasonably intuitive. The really contentious claims are those that get inferred from (iii): iv) Our knowledge/interactions can never exhaust all the features of a thing, because there is some feature of every thing qua thing that we can never encounter. This move aims to explain the necessity of excess by locating it in a feature common to all things, as opposed to something which varies from thing to thing. It holds that excess is essential because there is an essential feature of entities that is excessive. This makes sense if one demands an intrinsic explanation of excess, which locates the reason for the excess in the encountered object, as opposed to an extrinsic one, which locates it in the encountering object. When the latter is understood as a knowing subject, the extrinsic explanation of excess has traditionally taken the name of nitude. This posits an internal limit upon the cognitive abilities of the subject that precludes it from knowing objects in full. This limit neednt be interpreted in terms of some common qualitative excess, but could be seen as a disparate quantitative excess. It could simply be the case that the subject can only grasp a nite number of the innity of features belonging to each thing, but that there is no particular feature that is in principle ungraspable. Harman insists upon an intrinsic explanation, as can be seen in the above quote, but its important to recognise that this is underwritten by the equivocation between knowledge and causation: I am convinced that objects far exceed their interactions with other objects, and the question is both what this excess is, and where it is.73 In other words, he takes the

Harman, The Revival of Metaphysics in Continental Philosophy, in


Speculations III issue of essential excess to be equivalent to the issue of substantial reserve discussed in the argument from execution.74 The localisation of epistemic excess is thus predicated upon the localisation of causal excess. This sets the stage for the nal (and most contentious) inference: v) Our knowledge/interactions can never exhaust a thing, because we can never encounter the essence of the thing. We only encounter the (sensual) appearance of the thing, never its (real) being. This move converts the essential excess into an excessive essence. Harman takes the common essential feature of all things that cannot be encountered to be what things are in themselves, or essence as such. This is supposed to warrant the absolute distinction between the real and the sensual, insofar as it implies that whatever epistemic/causal contact there is with a thing must be contact with something other than what it really is. It thereby moves from localisation to isolation. However, this exploits the same equivocation as (iv), albeit in reverse, insofar as it makes sense of causal isolation in terms of epistemic isolation. While it is easy to understand withdrawal as the impossibility of direct epistemic access, it is much less clear how we are to understand independence as the impossibility of direct causal contact. There is a clear quantitative line from some access to no access, because we can intuitively grasp what it would be to completely fail to know anything about a thing despite seeming to, but there is no such clear line from some contact to no contact, because we cannot intuitively grasp what it would be to completely fail to activate any of a things capacities, despite seeming to. Of course, this is not how Harman conceives of independence. He bypasses quantitative considerations involved in (i) to (iv) by treating that which underlies causal interaction as a unitary execution as opposed to a multiplicity of distinct
Towards Speculative Realism, 117.

This is precisely how the arguments intertwine in Tool-Being, 223.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes capacities. The actualisation of capacities through causal contact is then treated as something qualitatively distinct from the independent substance which underlies them, much as the appearance of features through phenomenal access is treated as qualitatively distinct from the withdrawn essence which underlies them. This qualitative break is what divides execution and causation into distinct forms of actuality (modal tension) and activity (temporal tension). The equivocation between knowledge and causation thus disguises an illicit leap from quantitative to qualitative excess, along with the mysterian tensions it invokes. The overall shape of this argument is thus another reductio ad absurdum of sorts. It begins by assuming that there is partial contact between objects only to try and demonstrate that its essentially partial character implies the impossibility of any contact at all. It slides easily from quantity to quality on the back of Harmans characteristic universalisation of intentional relation, but as with the argument from execution, this conceals problems that warrant rejecting the terms in which it is framed. However, there is a further aspect of the move from quantity to quality worth considering:
But the following objection to this theory often arises: why exaggerate and say that things cannot touch at all? Does it not seem instead that things partly make contact with each other?The problem is that objects cannot be touched in part, because there is a sense in which objects have no parts.75

Harman is very insistent withdrawal is complete. Our knowledge of things is not merely limited, but entirely inadequate. Objects are foreclosed to us. But here he presents the mereological missing link in his reasoning from quantitative excess to qualitative excess. It seems that he takes the idea that a whole is more than its parts to imply that the whole is entirely distinct from its parts, such that to know the parts is not to know the whole, not even partially, as it were. This is

Harman, The Quadruple Object (Zer0 Books, 2010), 73.


Speculations III somewhat questionable, but it is not the whole story, as it only works if we treat the features and/or capacities of objects as if they are parts. This provides a path between (iv) and (v), but it is highly dubious. iv) The Argument from Identity The nal argument, which I call the argument from identity, will require even more reconstruction than the argument from excess. This is because, although it is frequently invoked, it is usually presented without a detailed analysis of how it is supposed to work. Though it does appear in the context of the tool-analysis,76 usually in conjunction with some form of the argument from excess, it also appears independently,77 as the snappiest and most condensed statement of the case for withdrawal. The most explicit presentation it has so far received is in Harmans criticism of James Ladyman and Don Ross Every Thing Must Go, which I will quote at length:
Lets imagine that we were able to gain exhaustive knowledge of all properties of a tree (which I hold to be impossible, but never mind that for the moment). It should go without saying that even such knowledge would not itself be a tree. Our knowledge would not grow roots or bear fruit or shed leaves, at least not in a literal sense. Even in the case of God, the exhaustive knowledge of a tree and creation of a tree would have to be two separate acts. Now, it has sometimes been objected to this point that it is a straw man. After all, who confuses knowledge of a tree with an actual tree? The answer, of course, is that no one does, since no one could openly identify a thing with knowledge of it and still keep a straight face. Yet the point is not that people defend this view openly, which they do not. Rather, the point is that many people uphold a model of the real that entails that knowledge of a tree and a real tree would be one and the same, and hence their views are refuted
76 Cf. Harman, Tool-Being, 224; Harman, Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making, 136. 77 Cf. Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 83, 103; Harman, Prince of Networks, 132; Harman, The Quadruple Object, 28, 73.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes

by reductio ad absurdum. Namely, if someone holds that there is an isomorphic relationship between knowledge and reality, such that reality can be fully mathematized, then it also follows that a perfect mathematical model of a thing should be able to step into the world and do the labor of that thing. But this is absurd.78

The essence of this argument is the attempt to derive the impossibility of complete knowledge of a thing from the ontological distinction between a thing and our knowledge of it. Although it sometimes appears that this invocation of non-identity is an argument for withdrawal proper, it is really an argument for the epistemic component of premise (iii) of the argument from excess. The rejection of complete knowledge must then be leveraged into a rejection of partial knowledge, as is clear from the article just quoted, which nishes the above section with a short appeal to the mereological component of the argument from excess discussed above.79 The inference from ontological distinction to the impossibility of complete knowledge once more takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum. The principle that underlies it is the claim that complete knowledge of a thing would somehow have to be identical to the thing, thereby contradicting ontological distinction. It is this principle which is nowhere given a detailed analysis, and which we must therefore reconstruct. The major problem we face here is that Harmans use of the term knowledge is never really backed up by an epistemology that could answer questions about the distinction between completeness and incompleteness, how this relates to the distinction between correctness and incorrectness, and whether knowledge of an object is composed of distinct representations. I have thus endeavoured to reconstruct the argument on the basis of reasonable assumptions about what Harman means by knowledge, the most important of which is that although Harman tends to simply talk about knowledge of an object
78 Harman, I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed, in Society and Space, volume 28 (2010), 788-789. 79

Ibid., 789.


Speculations III as a unitary phenomenon (e.g., knowing a tree), the notion of completeness/incompleteness implies that this must be composed out of correct representations of distinct features of the object (e.g., its species, size, shape, colouration, location, etc.). Ill thus begin with some premises that codify this implicit epistemology: i) For any representation of an object to be correct, the object must in some sense be the same as it is represented as being: I know the tree is an elm only if I represent it as being an elm and the tree is actually an elm, or if the tree-for-me and the tree-in-itself are the same in the relevant respect. ii) For a composite representation of an object to be correct, every distinct piece of it must be correct: my representation of the tree will not amount to knowing the tree if I misrepresent its structure, despite correctly representing its species, or if there is a dierence between the tree-for-me and the tree-in-itself. iii) For a composite representation of an object to be complete, it must be both correct and exhaustive: I know the tree completely only if there is no feature of the tree that is not accurately represented by some component of my representation of it as a whole. From these premises it is then possible to infer the following claim: iv) For any knowledge of an object to be complete, the object-for-us and the object-in-itself must be the same in every respect. We now only require Leibnizs principle of the identity of indiscernibles to reach the principle from which our contradiction is derived: v) For any knowledge of an object to be complete, the object-for-us and the object-in-itself must be identical. 342

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes This means that as long as we have good reason to think that the object-for-us and the object-in-itself must be ontologically distinct, the reductio will work. Harmans argument depends upon the obviousness of this fact. However, if we dig into this obviousness, well nd that all is not as straightforward as it might initially seem. I take the intuitive basis for ontological distinction to be the conjunction of two ideas: what Ill call the possibility of error and the necessity of identity. The former is the idea that for any representation to be a representation there must be the possibility that it could be incorrect, because correctness makes no sense without the possibility of incorrectness. The latter is the generally accepted principle that if two things are identical it is not possible that they could have been distinct. If we add these to (v) we can derive ontological distinction by reductio ad absurdum. This is because, if the object-for-us and the object-in-itself were identical, then our knowledge of the object would be necessarily complete, and therefore its component representations would have to be infallible, thereby violating the possibility of error. However, the fact that this demonstration includes (v) should give us pause for thought. It indicates that there is something shy about the connection between (v) and ontological distinction that should be pursued further. What it indicates is that (v) already has some ontological content. Some potentially questionable metaphysical assumptions have been snuck in via the back door.80
80 It should be noted that to reject these questionable assumptions and the hasty proof of ontological distinction given above is not necessarily to reject the brute fact of ontological distinction. Another way of looking at the issue is to say that our knowledge (or its representational content) and its object are distinct by default, insofar as, pace Harman, the question of their identity simply cannot arise. To give a parallel example, Julius Caesar is distinct from the number 9, because, although we have procedures for determining whether numbers are identical, and whether people are identical, we have no procedures that cross the number/person divide. We have similar ways of determining whether representational contents are identical (e.g., whether you and I are saying the same thing in speaking the same sentence), and these need not be compatible with our procedures for identifying the objects they represent.


Speculations III However, there is an illicit assumption concealed in (i) that only becomes explicit with the invocation of the identity of indiscernibles in inferring (v) from (iv). It all comes down to how the notion of sameness is interpreted. In order for the inference from (iv) to (v) to work, the uncontroversial idea that a correct representation must somehow represent the object as being the same as it actually is needs to be converted into the much more controversial idea that a correct representation must somehow be the same as the object is. This means that correctly representing some feature of an object is interpreted as standing in some relation to another object that also possesses that feature. Knowing that the treein-itself is an elm involves standing in some curious relation to a tree-for-me that is an elm in precisely the same sense as the tree-in-itself. For the principle of the identity of indiscernibles to work, the object-for-us and the object-in-itself must not only be able to have the same features, they must also possess these features in the same sense. What this shows is that the argument from identity can only contribute to the proof of withdrawal if Harman is allowed to base his epistemology upon a metaphysical distinction (object-for-us/object-in-itself) closely resembling the distinction between the sensual object and the real object it is intended to demonstrate. The fact of a distinction between types of object is already given, even if its character is not.81 To call this epistemology idiosyncratic would be an understatement. b) Heidegger, Husserl, and Kripke Harmans fourfold obviously emerges from the combination of the real/sensual distinction provided by the arguments
81 This is an interesting contrast to the way the distinction between types of object emerges in Tool-Being, which sees it as a consequence of his reconstruction of the tool-analysis, rather than something already implicit in the analysis (258-259). However, the argument of this particular section is suspect (essence must itself have essence, ad innitum) and does not seem to be repeated in any of the subsequent work.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes for withdrawal with the object/quality distinction. There are a number of dierent ways in which Harman introduces the latter distinction and thereby facilitates this emergence. However, the fourfold lacks an obvious counterpart of withdrawals tool-analysis: there is no single argument which stands out above all others. Rather, there is a mix of the three forms of exposition, which although it can be broken down into two core arguments: the argument from eidos (taken from Husserl) and the argument from essence (taken from Leibniz, Zubiri, and Kripke), is principally organised by Harmans interpretation of Heideggers famous fourfold (das Geviert) of earth (Erde), sky (Himmel), gods (Gttlichen) and mortals (Sterblingen). As such, we must once more preface our examination of Harmans own arguments with a brief analysis of his reading of Heidegger. i) Harmans Heidegger Revisited Harmans reading of the fourfold is to be praised for refusing to either sideline it as an unimportant feature of Heideggers work, or deny the numerical specicity of the categories constituting it. Moreover, it is to be commended for interpreting these categories as the result of the intersection of two distinctions that it basically gets right: cleared/concealed, and multiple/unitary. It is in the interpretation of these distinctions that everything goes wrong. The most serious problem is that he identies the more famous fourfold discussed above with another fourfold schema found earlier in Heideggers worksin his course during the Freiburg Emergency War Semester of 1919. This is the intersection of a distinction between the pre-theoretical (vortheoretische) and the theoretical (theoretische) and a distinction between the generic and the specic, producing these four categories: the pre-worldly something (Das vorweltliche Etwas), the world-laden something (Welthaftes Etwas), the formal-logical objective something (Formallogische gegenstndliche Etwas),


Speculations III and the object-type something (Objektartiges Etwas).82 This is complicated by the fact that Harman also misreads the 1919 schema, reading its concern with the something as a matter of singularity as opposed to universality, or a matter of beings as opposed to Being. It is understandable that Harman takes the pre-theoretical/ theoretical distinction to correspond to his own real/sensual distinction, but, as weve already shown, this is a misreading of Heideggers concern with the dierence between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand. It is not a distinction between that which is understood (the sensual) and that which exceeds understanding (the real), but a distinction between theoretical (apophantic) and pre-theoretical (hermeneutic) modes of understanding. The more serious error is that he confuses the distinction between beings considered generically (beings qua beings) and beings considered specically (e.g., this pen, that piece of paper, etc.) with the distinction between the unitary bearer of qualities (e.g., this pen, qua this) and the multiplicity of its qualities (e.g., this pen qua pen, qua plastic, qua blue, etc.). Although in considering something as a generic something we are indeed abstracting away from its specic determinations, we are not thereby moving from multiplicity to unity: the object-type something is already unitary, it is simply a unit of a specic type (e.g., a pen) with many other specic features (e.g., it is made of plastic, it is blue, etc.). The point is not to investigate the singularity of each being as distinct from the plurality of its qualities, but to investigate the universality of its Being as distinct from the particularity of its type and its other features. In essence, the 1919 schema is an early articulation of the connection between projective understanding and the question of Being: it circumscribes the relationship between the general structure of our theoretical understanding of beings (formal-logical objective something) and the primordial source
82 Theodore Kiesel, The Genesis of Heideggers Being and Time (University of California Press, 1992), 21-25.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes of our understanding (pre-worldly something). This is just what Heidegger will later characterise as the relationship between Being and time.83 The later fourfold most famously appears in an essay entitled The Thing in Heideggers analysis of the conditions under which a humble jug appears to us, but the themes that compose it are hinted at at least as early as his masterful On the Origin of the Work of Art and run rampant across the jumble of musings that compose Contributions to Philosophy. Harman overlooks these for the most part, in favour of his attempt to read a continuity with the 1919 schema. It is ironic then that his interpretation of the twin distinctions that constitute the fourfold gains more traction here. This is because it is essentially a modication and extension of the account of the strife between earth and world briey discussed earlier. The important dierences are that: a) world qua projected space of possibility is renamed sky; b) Daseins role in the projection of this space is made explicit in the form of mortals; and c) the enigmatic gods are added as a counterpart to mortals. This leaves us with a split between a unitary horizon of appearance (sky), multiple agents who clear this horizon (mortals), a unitary locus of resistance to this clearing (earth), and multiple foci where this resistance is hinted at within the horizon itself (gods). The mirror play between these four is then nothing but an extended account of strife: the process through which we attempt to negotiate a coherent and comprehensive grasp of reality by wrestling with that reality itself. Harman underplays Heideggers version of the cleared/ concealed and multiple/unitary axes in order to draw a
83 Of course, Heidegger never provided a complete account of his analysis of Being in terms of time. The third division of part one of Being and Time which was supposed to contain this analysis was never published, although we have fragments of the ideas that would have made it up in the form of Basic Problems of Phenomenology, which provides the most extensive version of the analysis, along with the best account the projection of Being upon the primordial source of temporal understanding (Temporalitt).


Speculations III continuity with his own fourfold.84 The crucial dierence between them is that Heidegger interprets the multiple/ unitary axis as a distinction between beings as such (the plurality of beings) and beings as a whole (the totality of beings), whereas Harman interprets it as the distinction between the multiplicity of a beings qualities and its singularity as bearer of these qualities. This reects their diering interpretation of the other axis, insofar as the later Heidegger understands concealing principally in terms of the whole (earth), of which particular concealings (gods) are derivative, whereas Harman takes particular concealing to not only be primary, but to be the only real form of concealing (withdrawal). Harman does not think the whole conceals itself as much as that it doesnt exist. It is nothing but the mutual withdrawal of every being from every other.85 This raises the issue of the relation between the multiple/unitary distinction and the part/whole distinction. Harmans rejection of the whole turns on interpreting it not merely as the totality of beings, but as a single being composed out of all other beings. As we have seen, this is precisely how he interprets Heideggers account of totality. This makes Heideggers position into a variant of what he would call onto-theology, insofar as it comprehends Being in terms of a single privileged being. This misinterpretation reveals a deeper issue though, insofar as Harman seems to blend these two distinctions in explaining his own schema. Specically, the multiplicity of a things real qualities and its unity as bearer of these qualities is often exchanged for the distinction between the things real parts and its unity as the whole these parts compose.86 This conation sometimes
84 I say underplay here because there are points at which he seems to recognise that Heideggers later schema simply does not t his own. This is somewhat implicit in Tool-Being (266), but it is explicit by the time of The Quadruple Object (87-88). 85

Harman, Tool-Being, 294-296.

This is most explicit in the section of Tool-Being where he explains the distinction between real objects and real qualities by way of Zubiris account of essence: The object lives with a dual tension in its breast. On the one hand it uctuates between the vacuum of its tool-being and the power of


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes comes out into the open, only to disappear once more.87 We must be careful not to let it pass without notice. ii) The Argument from Eidos It is clear that any argument Harman presents for his fourfold schema and the categorical structures he derives from it will inevitably depend upon the arguments for withdrawal we have already presented. Beyond this, Harman does not really need to argue for the distinction between objects and qualities, at least insofar as it is a correlate of the intuitive distinction between subjects and predicates. Rather, what must be argued for is his interpretation of the way this distinction intersects with the distinction between the real and the sensual to create a divide between two kinds of quality. The rst such argument we will consider, from The Quadruple Object, attempts to reverse engineer this distinction by independently deriving one of the categories that emerges out of it. It aims to demonstrate the divide between kinds of quality from within experience itself by appropriating Husserls phenomenological analysis of eidos. Harman is fond of remarking that despite the avowedly idealist character of Husserlian phenomenology, it nevertheless has a distinctly realist avour.88 He nds this avour concentrated in the analysis of eidos, where he attempts to separate it out from the bitter overtones of Husserls idealism. Harman begins by introducing Husserls theory of adits impact on neighbouring beings. On the other hand it is itself a systematic empire swarming with interior parts. (266, my emphasis).
87 The sheer extent of this is dramatised across Guerilla Metaphysics, in which the distinction between parts and qualities nally becomes evident, as if suddenly discovered, only to metamorphose through a number of different forms (cf. 7B, 10, 11) before nally settling upon a rejection of the plurality of qualities in favour of the plurality of parts (228-229). A detailed commentary upon these convoluted transitions is beyond the scope even of this extensive essay, but the need for one is ameliorated by the subsequent fading of this bold position in the formulation of the object/quality distinction presented in The Quadruple Object (cf. 88). 88

Harman, The Quadruple Object, 20.


Speculations III umbration (Abschattung).89 The basic idea underlying this phenomenological concept is that in ordinary perception we encounter things from dierent perspectives, and that the way the thing is presented may vary between them, highlighting some features and concealing others, despite the object remaining the same. We can stand outside a house and view it from various angles, and even walk within it, touching its walls and smelling its scents, but we are always encountering the same house, even if the encounters themselves are distinct. From this, Harman draws the phenomenological insight that the object is distinct from the qualities that it presents in these adumbrations, not because it is more than them, but because there is some sense in which it is less than them. This is because it is possible to subtract them from the object without it ceasing to be the same object. However, there is a limit upon subtraction, because if we could subtract all of a sensual objects qualities there would be nothing to distinguish it from other such objects.90 There are some essential features without which the sensual object cannot be what it is, and it is possible to compare dierent adumbrations of the same object and strip away the inessential features they present, in order to leave these behind. Husserl calls this process eidetic variation and its result eidos. Harman then claims that, according to Husserl, eidetic qualities are never revealed in perceptual adumbrations in the way that accidental ones are, but only through the process of eidetic variation, or the categorial intuition that arises from it. Harman then criticises Husserl, and amends his account in the following way:
Husserl is wrong to distinguish between the sensual and the intellectual here; both sensual and categorial intuition are forms of intuition, and to intuit something is not the same as to be it. Hence the eidetic features of any object can never be made present even through the intellect, but
89 90

Harman, The Quadruple Object 1b.

Ibid., 1c.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes

can only be approached indirectly by way of allusion, whether in the arts or in the sciences.91

The argument from identity thus makes a reappearance here to invoke the split between the real and the sensual. However, what is more important is the way this is congured in relation to the analysis of eidetic variation. Harman draws a distinction between sensual and intellectual modes of engagement with a things eidetic features only to collapse it, and thereby insist that these features must lie beyond both. He thus converts the distinction between accidental and eidetic features into his distinction between sensual and real qualities: For the qualities of its eidos are also withdrawn from all access, and real is the only possible name for such a feature.92 Here we once again encounter the strange interface between metaphysics and phenomenology in his work. Just what is eidetic variation if the features it was supposed to reveal can never actually be revealed? The truth of the matter is that Harman has parted ways with Husserl long before this move is made. Husserls concept of eidos is an account of general essence, as opposed to the account of individual essence that Harman is attempting to develop. Husserl principally talks about eidetic hierarchies of genus and species (e.g., the eidetic features of trees as opposed to those of elms) which eidetic variation and its corresponding modes of intuition allow us to traverse on the basis of our intuitions of individuals.93 He insists that all eidetic features belonging to the essence of the individuum another individuum can have too,94 in contrast to the idea that eidos could be unique to a given sensual object. However, this claim is not just in conict with Harmans take on essence, but with his take on the qualities that compose it: qualities

Harman, The Quadruple Object, 28, my emphasis. Ibid., 28. Ibid., 8. Edmund Husserl, Ideas I (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1982), 8-15.

92 93



Speculations III as described in this book are always individualised by the object to which they belong.95 Harman not only thinks that the process of eidetic variation aims at what makes a sensual object the unique individual that it is, but he thinks that it does so by considering qualities that are unique to it qua individual. This dearth of generality means that there is no basis for the process of comparison, insofar as there are no qualities that could possibly be shared.96 This makes the basis of the process of subtraction entirely mysterious, as there are no criteria for sorting accidents from eidos.97 In essence, what Harman does here is capitalise upon this mystery, in a manner similar to that weve seen in the arguments from execution and excess. He converts the absence of criteria for dierentiating between essential and inessential qualities in any given case into an absolute dierence between essential and inessential qualities in all cases. That there are no conceivable features that could be the end point of the process of determining eidos so described is used as a reason to treat eidetic features as inconceivable. Ultimately, the paucity of Harmans account of eidetic variation is actually best indicated by the way he appeals to allusion to ll it in. Not only does this bear no resemblance to the Husserlian phenomenological method on which the argument is supposedly founded, but it raises dicult questions about the categorical schema derived from the fourfold, insofar as it

Harman, The Quadruple Object, 30.

We have already seen this dearth of generality in Harmans interpretation of Heideggers phenomenology (cf. Tool-Being, 84-85), but it is equally present in his reading of Husserls. For instance, the example of the phenomenological reduction he presents in Guerilla Metaphysics (10b) never moves beyond the level of the individual, but simply decomposes sensual wholes into sensual parts and explores the relations between them.
96 97 Going further than this, in On Vicarious Causation Harman claims that Husserls method is supercial, because it cannot analyse eidetic qualities without turning them into something like accidents (214). He even goes so far as to claim that, not only are qualities individualised, but there is really only one qualitythe singular eidos. He thus sees eidetic variation as a sort of frantic scrabbling to unwrap a present in which we never reach the gift itself, only ever more layers of wrapping paper.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes seemingly conates allure (space-fusion) with theory (timession). iii) The Argument from Essence The second argument for the distinction between sensual qualities and real qualities is less localised. It must be reconstructed out of two components that are liberally spread throughout Harmans work, one associated with Kripkes work on rigid designators,98 and one associated with Leibniz and Zubiris work on individuation and essence.99 When taken together, these components allow for a reverse engineering of the distinction similar to that of the argument from eidos, by deriving the corresponding category of essence. Also like the argument from eidos, it depends upon the distinction between sensual and real established by the arguments for withdrawal. This is because it needs to conceive the relation between the sensual object and the real object in terms of reference. This does not mean that it must be described in terms of Heideggerian functional relations between things and things (Verweis), but rather that it must be described in terms amenable to the debates regarding how words relate to things inaugurated by Freges theory of sense (Sinn) and reference (Bedeutung). This is facilitated by the fact that the Husserlian terms in which Harman couches his theory of sensual objects were developed in dialogue with Frege. It is this concern with the intentional basis of reference that connects his work with the issues that Kripke raises for the theory of names.100 To explain further, Harman draws on Husserls concept of nominal acts to explain the relationship between the sensual
Cf. Harman, Tool-Being, 124, 213-215; Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 28-29, 108-110, 197-198; Harman, Prince of Networks, 175; Harman, The Quadruple Object, 67.
98 99 Cf. Harman, Tool-Being, 23-24; Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 82-83, 147, 162, 192; Harman, The Quadruple Object, 48-49. 100

Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981).


Speculations III object and its real counterpart.101 He interprets Husserls claim that all other intentional acts are founded upon nominal acts as saying that in any intentional relation we are acquainted with an immediate this (sensual object) that in turn refers to a shadowy this (real object). Names are attached to the former as if they are the senses that determine their references. This means that distinct sensual objects can refer to the same real object insofar as one thing can have many names. The crucial point is that, although Harman thinks that we can become acquainted with a sensual object by means of a description of the object that would draw our attention to it, and thus that we can learn how to use names through using descriptions (e.g., Pete refers to the person who wrote the paper youre currently reading), he does not think that this is necessary for acquaintance. As he explains in his reading of Ortega y Gasset, our acquaintance with the sensual object is a sort of feeling, and the object a sort of feeling-thing, which any particular description can never completely capture.102 However, this inability of descriptions to capture the feel of sensual objects is not yet the inability to capture the meaning of names that Kripke reveals. Harman takes the latter inability to consist in the relation between the name and its reference rather than the name and its sense: For Kripke, names are rigid designators that point to (or stipulate) realities beyond all possible descriptions of them.103 Whereas the immediate this is something more than the particular descriptions that give us purchase upon it, the shadowy this is something other than every possible description. Its helpful to quote Harman at some length on this point:
Kripkes rigid designator is meant to serve as a proper name pointing to something that remains identical even when all known features of the thing are altered, so that the moon remains the moon even if we turn out at some future point to have been catastrophically wrong about all its properties...However, the question for us is whether the invio101

Harmen, Guerilla Metaphysics, 28-29. Ibid., 108-110. Harman, The Quadruple Object, 67.

102 103


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes

late this beneath all apparent properties is something lying within perception, or is instead a real object lying somewhere beneath it.104

Harman obviously answers this question in the armative, but it is important to see that he does so for epistemological reasons. He thinks that because we can use names to talk about the same thing regardless of any possible disagreements about how we should describe it, every name must therefore refer to a mysterious inaccessible x lying behind any descriptions that might be given of it.105 What this means is that because Kripke shows that the reference of names is somehow independent of our beliefs about their qualities, the individuation of the objects they refer to cannot have anything to do with these beliefs. This is the rst component of the argument. The second component is much simpler. It amounts to a rather straightforward claim about the nature of individuation, which enables us to draw consequences regarding how the individuation of real objects does work from the above claim about how it doesnt. Harman discusses this in relation to Zubiris work, but his simplest statements of it are always his remarks on Leibniz: [Leibniz] observes that even though each monad must be one monad, each also needs a multitude of qualities to be what it is, to dier from other monads rather than being interchangeable with them.106 For real objects to be distinct from one another they must possess some qualities that distinguish them. There can be no individuation without qualities. This claim interacts with the Kripkean component in the following way:
The basic point is that we can no longer simply distinguish between a sensual world of properties and a deeper hidden core of the essential this...The this may be separable from all sorts of specic and falsiable features, but it is never separable from a specic essence, and is therefore no bare particular.107
104 105

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 197-198. Harman, The Quadruple Object, 49.

Harman, Tool-Being, 213.

106 107

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 197-198.


Speculations III Real objects must have individual essences that distinguish them from all other things, even if these cannot be adequately described in terms of any sensual qualities whatsoever. Therefore, if sensual qualities are unable to compose these essences, there must be an entirely distinct type of quality capable of doing so. The need for essence thus demonstrates the need for a distinction between real qualities and sensual qualities. The issue with this argument is that, much as we saw with Husserl in the argument from eidos, Harmans attempt to integrate Kripkes insights into his metaphysical framework ends up seriously warping them. We could focus on the fact that Kripke would not endorse the account of indirect reference that Harmans division between sensual and real objects implies, but this is a tortuous point, given the intricacies of neo-Fregean attempts to account for names as rigid designators.108 A more salient point is that although Kripke also develops a conception of individual essence out of his account of rigid designation, it is remarkably dierent from Harmans. Kripke does not take his account of rigid designation to imply that the essential properties of things must be of a completely dierent kind to their inessential ones.109 For him, it is entirely possible for one thing to possess a property essentially (e.g., a living cells salinity, which must remain within a narrow range for it to function) and another to possess the same property accidentally (e.g., a cooked piece of pastas salinity, which can vary well outside of this range without dissolution). Of course, he might simply have failed to recognise the implications of his own theory, but it should give us pause for thought. As such, we should take a look at his argument against descriptivism. Kripke claims that the meaning of a name such as Aristotle cannot be composed out of descriptions such as the most
I have in mind the work of Gareth Evans, John McDowell and Robert Brandom. I personally endorse Brandoms own anaphoric approach to integrating the Fregean sense/reference distinction and rigid designation, which he calls tactile Fregeanism, cf. Robert Brandom, Making It Explicit (Harvard University Press, 1994), ch. 7-8.
108 109

Cf. Naming and Necessity, 39-53, 110-115.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes famous student of Plato, the tutor of Alexander the great, or a Greek philosopher with an impressive beard, even if these descriptions uniquely pick out the relevant object, either individually or in conjunction. Put in its simplest form, the argument for this claim is that we would otherwise be unable to make sense of statements such as Aristotle might not have been the greatest student of Plato, Aristotle could have died before Alexander was born, or It was possible for Aristotle to shave o his beard and abandon philosophy. For any descriptive feature that is supposed to belong to the meaning of a name, we can construct a seemingly reasonable counterfactual statement involving that name in which the object lacks it, thereby producing a contradiction. The important contrast to draw with Harmans presentation of the argument is that this is straightforwardly modal rather than epistemic: it involves dierences between the way the world actually is and ways it could have been, rather than dierences between the way the world really is and ways we take it to be. What Kripke means when he says that names are rigid designators is simply that they pick out the same thing in all counterfactual scenarios. Moreover, he does not think that the name successfully refers to an object in every proposed scenario. He holds that some counterfactual statements (e.g., Aristotle could have been a pig) are false precisely because there are some essential features (e.g., humanity) that could not be absent from a scenario without the object being absent. He thus does not think that grasping the essence of a thing is impossible, but simply that it is distinct from grasping the meaning of a name that refers to it. There may be independent reasons not to endorse Kripkes essentialism, but they are not necessarily reasons to endorse Harmans alternative. Harmans account of rigid designation has thus mutated into stubborn designation, insofar as names not only refer to the same thing throughout counterfactual variations, but across all possible appearances. For Kripke and those who attempt to incorporate his insights, there is still at least some role for descriptions of the features and history of the objects our names refer to in determining whether two dif357

Speculations III ferent names refer to the same thing. There can be entirely separate causal histories (or anaphoric chains) determining the reference of dierent names (e.g., morning star and evening star) and yet facts about these can help determine whether they have been referring to the same thing all along (e.g., the morning star is the evening star, as both are names for Venus). For Harman, we can at best use descriptions to determine whether the sensual objects our names are attached to are the same, but never whether distinct sensual objects might refer to the same real object. This makes the boundaries between real objects as mysterious as their qualities.110 The sensual chair I am sitting on and the sensual tree I am staring at are sensually distinct, but they might not be really distinct. The sun, the sea, and the strudel I had for breakfast may really have been the same thing all along. The messy business of working out just what it is were talking about can only be given over to allure in the same fashion that the theorisation of eidos seems to have been. It therefore seems as if the whole issue of reference from which the argument begins has gone out the window. Even more worryingly perhaps, we are left wondering why me must arm the reality of discreteness at all, rather than some singular Apeiron underlying a plurality of discrete appearances. Harmans own analysis of appearance cannot but dissolve the glaringly obvious fact of discreteness that he himself held up against Heideggers purported holism. His radical dissociation of the individuation of sensual objects from the individuation of real objects precludes appealing to apparent discreteness to prove real discreteness, and thereby undermines his seemingly radical individualism. If we cannot know anything about the criteria of individuation of real objects, then we are left with the real possibility that there might just be one.


I owe this point to Daniel Sacilotto.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes c) Occasionalism, Independence, and Supplementation In considering the arguments for the nal aspect of Harmans system, we are put in a similar position to our examination of the arguments for the fourfold, only more so. Though Harman devotes a considerable amount of space to elaborating his account of allure,111 and presents some additional reasons why we should want such an account of causation, the principal motivation for the account is provided by the arguments we have already considered and rejected. Harman issues the following challenge to those who would assess his account of causation in Guerilla Metaphysics:
Once it was conceded that the world is made up of withdrawn objects, utterly sealed in private vacuums but also unleashing forces upon one another, all the other problems follow in quick succession. Let anyone who does not agree with the strategies of guerilla metaphysics specify clearly which of its initial steps is invalid.112

This is precisely what I have done. None of these initial steps has proved valid, let alone all of them. This seems to rule out vicarious causation by default. Still, there are some more probative reasons that Harman presents for his account of causation. He provides a further historical narrative regarding the tradition of occasionalism about causation, which is meant to suggest that the problem his theory responds to emerges from a broader range of concerns than his own. He also suggests that the scientic account of causation demands supplementation by a metaphysical theory of causation of precisely the kind he provides. I will now address both of these, but will divide them with a nal statement of the core of Harmans argument for vicarity, on the basis of the independence of objects from one another. This provides a proper contrast with the motivations of the occasionalists as well as contextualising the demand for supplementation.

Cf. Harman Guerilla Metaphysics 8-12; Harman On Vicarious Causation. Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, p. 97.



Speculations III i) Harmans Occasionalist Tradition According to Harman, the problem of how distinct things can causally interact has a long lineage.113 On the one hand, he sees it being raised within explicitly metaphysical terms in the Islamic occasionalism of the Asharite school, the modern occasionalism of Descartes, Malebranch, and Leibniz, and in the more contemporary occasionalism of Whitehead. All of these thinkers invoke God as a mediator capable of overcoming what they see as the causal gap between entities, be it as the source of all causal power (the Asharites), the source of the connection between dierent kinds of substance (Descartes), or the medium through which entities are able to encounter one another (Malebranch, Leibniz, and Whitehead). On the other, he has sees it being raised implicitly in the epistemological skepticism/critique of Hume and Kant. He reads these thinkers as invoking the mind as a mediator which provides the causal connections between appearances, be it through mere habit (Hume), or through transcendental necessity (Kant). Harman criticises both of these trends for advocating a global occasionalism, insofar as they require all causal relations to be mediated by the same thing, be it God in the former or the mind in the latter, and proposes, along with Latour, a local occasionalism, in which causal relations between entities are mediated by further entities. Now, although this strikes me as presenting a somewhat perverse reading of Kant and Hume, insofar as it reads their epistemological concerns in metaphysical terms they would abjure, there are denite continuities here. There are overlapping themes that seem to motivate similar accounts of causation, insofar as they all demand some form of causal mediation. However, this demand does not arise from a single problem held in common between the various sub-traditions that make up this narrative. For instance, Islamic occasionalism did not only provide a theological solution, but was motivated by a theological problem about the power of God. This is
113 Cf. Harman, On Vicarious Causation, 188, 202, 218-219; Harman, Prince of Networks, 5c.


Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes remarkably dierent from Descartes problem concerning the split between thought and extension, Leibnizs problem concerning compossibility, and lightyears from the concerns with the nature of explanation that motivate Latours occasionalism. If we do not share any of these diverse concerns, then this problem has no hold on us. Harman hardly takes the theological concerns of the Asharites to be pressing, so he cannot lean upon them to motivate his own theory of causation. In short, we still need some good reasons to accept the problematic status of unmediated causal relations above and beyond this narrative. ii) The Argument from Independence Harmans own reasons for taking unmediated causal relations to be impossible all stem from his claims about the independence of objects from their relations to one another. These turn up at various dierent points in the three arguments for withdrawal weve considered, but they are never motivated independently of claims about the excess of objects over our grasp of them, be there an explicit connection between them or an implicit conation of them. This should be unsurprising given the dominance of phenomenological themes throughout these arguments, even when they are illicitly intertwined with metaphysical ones. My aim is now to make this tangle of claims about epistemic access and causal interaction a bit clearer, not by reconstructing a further argument, but by unearthing a non sequitur underlying the other arguments. This amounts to a nal attempt at cutting the Gordian knot of methodological issues underlying Harmans project before we consider his ideas about the relationship between philosophy and science. I think the key here is Harmans offhand remark that despite its various degrees of ecacy, [physical causation] must ultimately either work or fail to work.114 This is made in the context of displaying the parallels between causation and allure, which he similarly takes to either succeed or fail

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 176.


Speculations III in this binary fashion. This adds an extra layer of depth the to the picture of vicarious causation presented above, insofar as not only is sincerity insucient for causal interaction, but that allure is sometimes insucient too. Successful causation requires successful allure. However, what is really interesting is the claim that causal interaction should be understood in terms of success at all. If the problem of how one object can aect another is actually the problem of how one object can successfully aect another, then this tells us something more about the implicit motivations of the problem. This is because knowledge can be understood in terms of representational success. If one conates representation and causation by treating causation in intentional terms, then one can seemingly infer the impossibility of successful causation (causal independence) from the impossibility of knowledge (epistemic excess). This conation can only be held together by the sort of functional language that Harman refuses to abandon at the end of the argument from execution, as it lets us treat things as striving for ends. We can say that things try to aect one another, even if they always fail. Of course, there still must be some way in which causation can succeed. The absolute ban upon causal contact is thus qualied using the notion of directness: all direct access fails, therefore all direct causation fails. The hope of an indirect form of access (if no longer strictly epistemic in character) thus holds open the hope of an indirect from of causation. This hope is answered in both cases by allure. It provides a supposedly non-representational way for us to access the real, and in doing so provides a way for the real to aect us. However, the fact that these relations proceed in opposite directions should give us pause for thought. The object that tries to affect is the object hiding behind the sensual object, whereas the object that tries to access is the object encountering this facade. Whats going on here then? The crucial question is this: in precisely what way can allure be said to succeed where representation fails? It is the equivocation between the standards of representational success and causal success that allows us to convert epistemic excess into 362

Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes causal independence. If there is no sense in which allure is held to the former standard, or to some deeper standard that it shares with representation, then there is no good sense in which it can overcome causal independence. The problem is that the only concrete standards of success that Harman ever deploys in his discussions of allure concern how the allure aects the one who experiences it.115 Does the joke make me laugh? Does my mistake embarrass me? Does the metaphor make me think? The fact that these are the questions that determine the success of allure indicates why successful allure is a model for successful causation. These allusions can only succeed or fail insofar as there is some eect they are supposed to produce upon us. They are thus more like access to narcotics than access to information. It doesnt seem to matter that there is no substantive comparison with representational success, only because it is already understood in causal terms. The non sequitur is hidden by blatant circularity. Harmans aesthetics is an introspective theory of emotional aection. iii) The Argument from Supplementation Finally, we come to Harmans defence of the importance of his theory of vicarious causation by way of his thoughts on the relationship between philosophy and science. Lets jump straight in at the deep end:
For several centuries, philosophy has been on the defensive against the natural sciences, and now occupies a point of lower social prestige and, surprisingly, narrower subject matter. A brief glance at history shows that this was not always the case. To resume the oensive, we need only reverse the long-standing trends of renouncing all speculation on objects and volunteering for curfew in an ever-tinier ghetto of solely human realities: language, texts, political power. Vicarious causation frees us from such imprisonment by returning us to the heart of the inanimate world, whether natural or articial. The uniqueness of philosophy is secured, not by walling o a zone of precious human

Cf. Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 8-9, 211-213.


Speculations III
reality that science cannot touch, but by dealing with the same world as the various sciences but in a dierent manner.116

He thus sees his metaphysical system as an attempt to return philosophy to its rightful subject matter. He defends philosophys right to tackle the same topics as the sciences by claiming that it can approach them through other means. Given the diculties weve had in determining Harmans methodology up till now, we are entitled to some curiosity regarding just what these means are, and how they are supposed to dier from those of the sciences. This is where the theory of vicarious causation is supposed to shine, by providing us with an exemplar of the divergence between the scientic and philosophical approaches:
From the naturalistic standpoint, ignoring for now whatever complications one might wish to infer from the quantum theory, causation is essentially a physical problem of two material masses slamming into each other or mutually aected through elds. One object becomes directly present to the other, whether through physical contact or some other form of intimacy. But there is also a metaphysical problem of causation.117

The initial problem with this is that all of the contrasts Harman makes between the supposed scientic understanding of causality and his own metaphysical one present an incredibly crude version of the sciences.118 Although he pays lip service to the implications quantum mechanics, he entirely ignores the advanced mathematical techniques (e.g., phase space modelling, statistical analysis, information theory, etc.) that the sciences have developed to model phenomena since Hume talked about billiard ball dynamics, along with the intricate theoretical questions regarding the nature of causation that these have spawned, both in the sciences and
116 117

Harman, On Vicarious Causation, 190.

Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 18. Cf. Harman, Tool-Being, 19, 209 ; Harman, Guerilla Metaphysics, 79.



Peter Wolfendale The Noumenons New Clothes the philosophy of science (e.g., emergent capacities, statistical causality, information transmission, etc.).119 However, on second thought, the real problem is that Harmans approach precludes him from paying any attention to these things anyway. As far as he is concerned, the sciences dont tell us anything about reality. They only talk about it as it seems, whereas philosophy can talk about it as it is. This isnt to say science is useless, but simply that the truth is entirely inaccessible to it. Maybe this truth will be relevant to the sciences, maybe it wont, but theres no real debate to be had here, even if there might be mutual inspiration. There is a tremendous irony in this, insofar as the strange methodological hybrid of phenomenological description and metaphysical argument that Harman adopts amounts to the practice of introspective metaphysics. It is important to understand that this is dierent from what is often called armchair metaphysics insofar as it has nothing to do with the a priori as traditionally understood. It is not a matter of retreating from observation to contemplate and reason about the fundamental concepts that underpin observation, but a matter of seeking out a special kind of intuition unknown to the sciences. Harman claims to get at the reality that the sciences can never describe by closely describing the structure of seeming. Far from challenging the retreat of philosophers from the world into the bastion of consciousness, he has simply extended the domain of consciousness into the world. On this basis, he provides us with an introspective theory of causation modelled upon emotional intensity. This theory is independent of the sciences insofar as it is based on a form of evidence entirely alien to the sciences, but it strikes me as equally alien to the proper practice of philosophy. The phenomenological trappings in which Harmans metaphysical introspection is clothed are at best a bad disguise, like a tasteless rubber Nixon mask, only formed into a bizarre
119 This is evident in the way he approaches the work of Ladyman and Ross in I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed, where he all but explicitly refuses to consider the scientic issues that motivate many of their crucial metaphysical choices.


Speculations III caricature of Husserls face instead. What they hide is a series of questionable assumptions and sometimes outright misunderstandings regarding important epistemological and metaphysical issues. Our next task must be to peal back this mask and bring these assumptions into the open, in order to better understand why one might be tempted to endorse OOP despite the convoluted and deeply awed arguments presented for it.120

120 This argument will be continued in a second part which will be published in a forthcoming issue of Speculations.


Of Realist Turns
A conversation with Stathis Psillos
Fabio Gironi

tathis Psillos is Professor of Philosophy of Science and Metaphysicsin theDepartment of Philosophy and History of Sciencein theUniversity of Athens, former president of the European Philosophy of Science Association and editor of the review journal Metascience. Psillos is one of the most prominent defenders of scientic realism in contemporary philosophy of science, and he formulated his arguments in defense of realism in two important monographs: Scientic Realism: How Science Tracks Truth (1999) and Knowing the Structure of Nature: Essays on Realism and Explanation (2009). Psillos investigation begins with the identication of three core theses of scientic realism:1 The Metaphysical Thesis: the world has a denite and mindindependent natural-kind structure;
1 See Stathis Psillos, Scientic Realism: How Science Tracks Truth (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), xvii and Stathis Psillos, Knowing the Structure of Nature: Essays on Realism and Explanation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian, 2009), 4.


Speculations III The Semantic Thesis: scientic theories should be taken at face-value, being truth-conditioned descriptions of their intended domain, both observable and unobservable; The Epistemic Thesis: mature and predictively successful scientic theories are to be considered well-conrmed and approximately true descriptions of the world. He proceeds by oering an articulation of the so called no-miracles argument for scientic realism as the crucial argument supporting this realist worldview, taking it as an instance of inference to the best explanation and defusing the attacks of vicious circularity moved against it. He has also defended scientic realism from a range of other anti-realist arguments, including Larry Laudans pessimistic meta-induction, the argument from underdetermination of theory by evidence (the so-called Quine-Duhem thesis), and the constructive empiricism of Bas Van Fraassen. Psilloss scientic realism conjoins a positive epistemic attitude towards a fully knowable natural-kind structure of the universe with a robust, non-epistemic conception of truth, constructing a realist stance which is (as famously phrased by Crispin Wright)2 both metaphysically modest (there is an external world which is in every way independent from us) and epistemically presumptuous (this world can be known, to a good approximation of truth-likeness by our best epistemic practice, i.e., science). There is thus no better dialogue partner than Prof. Psillos to discuss realism, especially for those interested in bridging the gap between the continental and the analytic philosophical traditions. I take it to be an integral part of the mandate of Speculations to promote this cross-contamination: those interested in the resurgence of realist concerns from within the continental tradition ignore the vast analytic philo2 See Crispin Wright, Truth and Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 1-2.


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns sophical production on this topic at their peril. An informed understanding of how the realist stance has evolved in the last few decades of philosophical research in philosophy of science in dialectical engagement with a variety of anti-realist positions and how it has worked towards the clarication of concepts like causation, explanation, truth, and reference to unobservable entities, will oer precious conceptual resources for realists of all stripes and backgrounds.3 As readers of Speculations will know, in the last few years we have witnessed a return of realist concerns within the continental tradition: this has taken shape in both readings of gures from the history of continental philosophy on the background to the problem of realism and antirealism (often in relationship with their understanding of the natural sciences)4 and of formulations of new, original realist positions. Many of these new theoretical orientations have been grouped under the term speculative realism, a rather loose category which can be characterized, for brevitys sake (and indeed in the attempt to nd a minimum common de3 Some thinkers within the continental realist movement are aware of this necessity, and it is not uncommon, in their work, to nd reference to a range of analytic gures including Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell, Robert Brandom, Nancy Cartwright and Paul and Patricia Churchland.

See, for example, Lee Bravers historical narration of antirealism in continental philosophy (Lee Braver, A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism [Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007]), Iain Hamilton Grants defense of a materialist/vitalist Schelling (Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling [London and New York: Continuum, 2006]), Trish Glazebrooks account of the evolution of Heideggers opinions about science throughout his philosophical career (Trish Glazebrook, Heideggers Philosophy of Science, [New York: Fordham University Press, 2000]), Manuel DeLanda reconstruction of Gilles Deleuzes realism through his engagement with complexity theory and dierential geometry (Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy [London and New York: Continuum, 2002]), Martin Hgglunds and Michael Marders materialist/realist reading of Jacques Derridas philosophy (Martin Hgglund, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008] and Michael Marder, The Event of the Thing: Derridas Post-Deconstructive Realism [Toronto, Bualo, London: University of Toronto Press. 2009]). It is worth noting that many of these texts have the programmatic intent of presenting the work of continental gures in terms appreciable by an analytic audience.


Speculations III nominator in a range of often widely dierent approaches), by a reaction against and rejection of all those boundaries (Kantian-transcendental, phenomenological, cultural relativist, postmodern) posed between the human subject and thingsin-themselves independent from human epistemic access. The criticized stance can be reduced to what Quentin Meillassoux has christened correlationism, the thesis defending the viciously circular impossibility of thinking an entity x as independent of thought, a stance which always reinscribes (correlates) the independent dimension of an entity within the limited horizon of a language, of consciousness, or of any other transcendental condition. These new forms of realism share the belief in the possibility of constructing a philosophy which can reclaim the right to deal with things in themselves, but to do so in a speculative manner. One should be cautious in dening what speculative means here. Roughly, new continental realisms are speculative insofar as they either 1) reject the mandatory grounding of a realist metaphysics on purely empirical foundations and thus promote the reactivation of the possibility of a rationalism of a pre-Kantian kind (reclaiming the possibility of rst philosophy and, to a certain extent, carrying forward the continental ambition of doing fundamental ontology) or 2) even when embracing the natural sciences results as a starting point (without caricaturizing or simplifying them), intervene precisely where the sciences themselves are unable to nd an internal explanation of their results by revising their metaphysical conceputal apparatus. As a general point one can say that it is precisely the negotiation of a new relationship between (continental) philosophy and science which is at stake in speculative realism, and thus that dierent orientations along this realist spectrum are to be distinguished on the basis of their degree of allegiance to the natural sciences orif we consider the comparative dimension that we will pursue in this interviewthe degree to which they reject the strict naturalism which dominates the analytic eld. 370

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns Fabio Gironi: I would like to begin by asking you how you developed your philosophical interests. You started your academic education in Greece with a degree in Physics. What pushed you to philosophy and specically to the philosophy of science? Stathis Psillos: Part of the reason why I was drawn to the study of the natural sciences and of physics in particular was disillusionment with the way philosophy was conceived of, and practiced, in Greece back in the 1980s (and until not too long agoperhaps even today in certain traditional circles). Philosophy was taken to be an essentially philological discipline constitutively engaged with the interpretation of the texts of the great dead philosophers (especially the ancient Greeks) and with an attempt at a grand historical narrative of philosophical ideas; as if philosophical ideas were developed in an epistemic vacuum independently of what was going on in science and in general culture. Actually, philosophy was taken to be a discipline which has evolved in opposition to science. Studying philosophy this way was extremely unattractive to me (even though, unbeknownst to me back then, there were pockets in a couple of philosophy departments in Greek universities that resisted this conception of philosophy). I was therefore led to physics, but it was quite clear to me from quite early in my studies that I was looking for a window of opportunity to engage with philosophy in a systematic manner. My turn to philosophy of science was a natural outcome of my engagement with physics and my tendency to look for philosophical problems that arise within physics as well as from what physics tells us about the world. I wrote my rst degree dissertation on issues in the philosophy of quantum mechanics (tryingin vain, I am afraidto understand the rich Aristotelian notion of potentiality and its possible relevance to the stochastic conception of the world, as this is depicted in the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics). Back then (in the late 1980s) it was quite hard to nd any serious literature in Greece and I was lucky to be given by a teacher of mine the typescript of the


Speculations III yet unpublished book of Michael Redheads Incompleteness, Non-Locality and Realism, which excited my interest in realism. My commitment to realism (admittedly in a nave and perhaps vague way, and mainly conceived of as materialism) was already there because of my theoretical engagement with Marx. In fact, this engagement kept my philosophical awareness alive throughout my University studies and led me to try to understand both the idealist and the empiricist opposition to realism (perhaps, unwittingly, conating them back then). Reection on Marxs second thesis on Feuerbach (The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truthi.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.) was leading me towards a conception of realism that was meant to enable the task of transforming the world. I was feeling quite satised by the fact that this task was meant to be the proper mission of philosophers, as Marx, I thought, was claiming in the famous eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. But I soon realised that I was fooling myself. Contrary to Marxs eleventh thesis, the point was still to interpret the worldif we are to know what we are doing when we try to change it. In this endeavour to interpret the world, science, I thought, was the bastion of rationality and progress; the terra rma upon which one could base all hopes for a better world. I believed back thenand still believe nowthat science is the best way we humans have invented to push back the frontiers of ignorance and error, to achieve a deep understanding of the world and of our place in it, and to make the world a better place to live. What I now add is that science is not a faultless, value-neutral and interest-free way to understand and change the world. But science and its claim to truth and knowledge are not immune to criticism; hence, they need justication and de-


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns fence. To me, looking into the scientic realism debate was no longer optional. It amounted to taking a standpoint: the scientic realist standpoint. When I went to Kings College London for graduate studies in philosophy of science (having gratefully received a states scholarship, without which I would have been unable to pursue my philosophical studies in the UK), I came into the scientic realism debate with no neutrality. I wanted to defend scientic realism, along with the objectivity and rationality of science and its method. This was both an intellectual and, I thought, a political goal. Back in the 1990s, there was a pervasive thought, especially among left-wing American and continental European intellectuals, that undermining the alleged epistemic authority of science, challenging its claims to objectivity and knowledge, was an act of emancipation from the strangling authority of Reason. I was never persuaded by this rhetoric. It conated intellectual authority with authoritarianism and, at least to all of us who learned our basic philosophy and politics in the European south, intellectual authority (and objectivity and criticism and the search for truth) were the arch enemies of any kind of authoritarianism. FG: Indeed. Considering the paradigm of charismatic populist authoritarianism that has been steering politics in my own country in the last decades, I couldnt agree more. Id like now to introduce readers not acquainted with them to discussions taking place in the analytic philosophy of science (since enthusiasts of the continental realist turn often tend to overlook the fact that a similar turn has occurred in the analytic tradition roughly between the 1960s and the 1970s, and has developed vigorously ever since) and, second, to expose you to some recent realist developments in continental philosophy. As for the rst point, can you clarify how the scientic qualier dierentiates scientic realism from the more general realism part of philosophical vocabulary since medieval scholasticism? And can you oer a brief historical narrative guiding us from the realist turn which lifted the embargo on the reference to unobservable, theoretical entitiesoriginating in the work of


Speculations III philosophers such as Wilfrid Sellars, J.C.C. Smart and Richard Boydto the present state of the scientic realism debate?5 SP: Historically, realism has been taken to be a doctrine about the independent and distinct reality of universals (qua attributes or species). It was opposed to nominalism, viz., the view that only particulars exist. Nominalists argued that general terms and predicates are merely names for classifying particulars in terms of their similarities and dierences. Realistswho, historically, came rstclaimed that universals are real entities referred to by abstract terms, general names and predicates, and argued that they are necessary for knowledge and for grounding the similarities and dierences among particulars. There have been transcendent realists (those who think that universalsqua Platonic formsare apart from, and prior to, the particulars) and immanent realists (those, like Aristotle, who think that though a universal is the one over the many and imperishable, it is not apart from the many). Its an interesting question when and under what circumstances the term realism started to acquire philosophical currency. I have not looked into the matter with any seriousness. The term appears in Kants rst critique (quite late in the text) joined with the qualiers transcendental and empirical. Kant contrasts realism to idealism; in particular to his own transcendental idealism. Kant claims that transcendental realism takes the phenomena (outer appearances/objects of the senses) as real and as existing independently of us and our sensibility, thereby taking them as things-in-themselves. It is transcendental realism that he famously denies and to which he opposes his transcendental idealism, viz., the view
5 The Present State of the Scientic Realism Debate is the title of the rst chapter in Psillos Knowing the Structure of Nature. Readers seeking a fully detailed account of this debate should turn to it or, for an even broader perspective, to Psillos exhaustive historical survey of the entirety of twentiethcentury philosophy of science in chapter fourteen of Dermot Moran, The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy (London and New York: Routledge, 2008).


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns that the objects of knowledge are not the things-in-themselves, but the phenomena as they are constituted by their epistemic conditions for their knowledge (the categories and the forms of pure intuition). But transcendental idealism, he insists, makes room for empirical realism, meaning that the objects of the senses are material things that are to be found in space, even though space (and time) are a priori forms of sensible intuition. The fact is that Kants way to cure the scandal of philosophy (recall: it must still remain a scandal to philosophy and to the general human reason to be obliged to assume, as an article of mere belief, the existence of things external to ourselvesand not to be able to oppose a satisfactory proof to anyone who may call it in question6), created another scandal: the inherent unknowability of things as they are in themselves (by beings like us anyway, who are bounded by sensible intuition). The Kantian dichotomy between the noumena and the phenomena (an epistemic dichotomy, to be sure) made any robust realist position having to face an uphill struggle: to save the independence of the world from the human mind while avoiding scepticism or agnosticism. Denying the very distinction between the noumena and the phenomena, the Hegelian idealist tradition compromised the independence of reality from thought, thereby securing its knowability. Its not clear to me there were any strong realist voices in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the strongest was Gottlob Freges who took it that the truths of arithmetic are fully objective, mind-independent and about numbers qua abstract objects. Bertrand Russell, in the early twentieth century, developed what came to be known as (a version of) structural realism in an attempt to argue that, given various quite plausible causal assumptions, the structure of the things-in-themselves (that is of the world as-it-is-in-itself) is inferable from, and hence knowable on the basis of, the structure of the phenomena. Rudolf Carnap famously argued that the issue of the reality (and mind-independence) of the world is a pseudo problem,

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, b xxxix.


Speculations III but following Moritz Schlick he made room for empirical (as opposed to metaphysical) realism. The spectre of metaphysical realism, as Schlick put it, was the phantom of a world somehow standing behind the empirical world, where the word behind indicates that it cannot be known in the same sense as the empirical world, that it lies behind a boundary which separates the accessible from the inaccessible.7 It was the specter of the Kantian noumena, perhaps under the illusion that there is a special non-empirical method of knowing them. Rejecting metaphysical realism, Schlick and co. were striving for a position which would leave metaphysics behind, without however abandoning the rich conception of the world, as this is described by the sciencesa world populated by atoms and elds and whatever else our best science tells there is. Science advances by revealing the constituents of things that we encounter in perception and the fact that these are (typically) invisible is no reason to suppose they are not real. Hence, Schlick and co. were aiming to articulate an empiricism-friendly philosophical stance towards science which is distinct from instrumentalism but not committed to a metaphysically-loaded sense of reality. By the 1920s, the classical Newtonian conception of the world was giving way to a new theoretical framework dominated by Einsteins theories of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. What is more, the atomic conception of matter was gaining wide acceptanceit had become the new paradigm. With it, this conception brought the issue of the ontic status of the various invisible entities posited by theories to explain the various observable phenomena. By the turn of the twentieth century, there was a rather heated debate concerning the status of explanatory hypotheses in sciencethose that posited the existence of unobservable entities. The resistance to explanation-by-postulation was motivated by philosophical arguments, mostly driven by what was taken to be commitment to empiricist theses. One line of resistance had to do
7 Moritz Schlick, Positivismus und Realismus, Erkenntnis, 3, 1-31, 1932. Translated as Positivism and Realism in Logical Positivism, Alfred J. Ayer, ed. (Glencoe, NY: Free Press, 1960).


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns with semantics: how can we render language to refer successfully to things that are not given in experience? Another line of resistance had to do with epistemology: how can we possibly come to know anything about the unobservable, if the basis of this knowledge is not rooted in experience? A third line had to do with metaphysics: what exactly is it to be committed to the reality of unobservable entities? Perhaps, a nal line was methodological: in trying to understand science as a practice that involves theory and observation, do we need (and do we have) to read theories as if they aim to tell a true story about the unobservable world behind or beyond the phenomena? In practice, these four lines of resistance were mixed and conated. But the fact is that very many eminent scientists who had philosophical motivation and acumen (from Ernst Mach, to Pierre Duhem, to Henri Poincar, to Wilhelm Ostwald) took it that there is something deeply problematic with explanation-by-postulation and its promise to take our epistemic grasp beyond the limits of (immediate/sensory) experience. It turns out that the key to shifting scientic opinion in favour of the reality of atoms was Jean Perrins theoretical and experimental work (roughly around 1910) on the causes of the Brownian motion, which drove home the message that explanatory hypotheses can be highly conrmed by empirical evidence (provided they acquire characteristics that make them denite and testable). It was in this period that the rst versions of a major argument for scientic realism were drafted, by the likes of Poincar, Duhem and Ludwig Boltzmannviz., that the predictive success of scientic theories cannot be a feat of chance, but that it is best explained by (and hence gives us reason to accept) facts involving unobservable entities which, according to the theories, are causally responsible for the generation of the relevant empirical phenomena. It was also in this period, however, that an important argument against scientic realism started to take shape: the argument from theory-change in science. This is based on the historical fact that there are radical revisions in the scientic image of the world; that past theories were abandoned and replaced by 377

Speculations III substantially dierent ones. This fact caught the public eye in France, in the beginning of the twentieth century, under the rubric the bankruptcy of science. If current theories will have the fate of the past ones (if they too become part of the future history of science books), what is the reason to take them seriously as revealing to us the way the world is? Faced with the problem of radical discontinuity in theory-change, Poincar and Duhem argued that there is, nonetheless, some substantial continuity at the level of the mathematical equations that represent empirical as well as theoretical relations. From this, they concluded that these retained mathematical equationstogether with the retained empirical content fully capture the objective content of scientic theories. By and large, they thought, the theoretical content of scientic theories is structural: if successful, a theory represents correctly the structure of the world. It is noteworthy that at least in Poincars case, his structuralism had a Kantian origin. He took it that science could never oer knowledge of things as they were in themselves. But he did add to this that their relations could nonetheless be revealed by structurally-convergent scientic theories. These two major arguments (one from the success of scientic theories and the other from the existence of revolutions in science) were destined to dene most of the logical space within which the scientic realism debate would take place later on in the century. Neither of these arguments were at the forefront during the heyday of logical positivism. It was Herbert Feigls liberating critique of the main tenets of logical positivism that set the agenda for the realist turn of the 1950s. He argued that the empiricist programme had been a hostage to vericationism for too long. Vericationism runs together two separate issues: the evidential basis for the truth of the assertion and the semantic relation of designation (i.e., reference). It thereby conates the issue of what constitutes evidence for the truth of an assertion with the issue of what make this assertion true. If theoretical statements cannot be given truth-conditions in an ontology that dispenses with theoretical entities, then a full and just explication of scien378

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns tic theories simply requires commitment to the irreducible reality of unobservable entities, no less than it requires commitment to observable entities. Perhaps the rst full-blown defence of scientic realism was Jack Smarts Philosophy and Scientic Realismpublished in 1963, though his key papers on the reality of theoretical entities were published in the middle of 1950s. Smart rebutted various views that treated theoretical entities as ctions or phenomenal constructs or mere concepts. Smart put the defence of scientic realism in proper perspective by arguing that it rests on an abductive argument, aka inference to the best explanation. Smart argued against instrumentalists that they must believe in cosmic coincidence. Scientic realism, on the other hand, leaves no space for a cosmic-scale coincidence: it is because theories are true and because the unobservable entities they posit exist that the phenomena are, and are related to one another, the way they are. It is fair to say that the realist turn in the philosophy of science was greatly facilitated by Wilfrid Sellarss attack on the myth of the levels. This myth rested on the following image. There is the bottom level of observable entities. Then, there is the intermediate level of the observational framework, which consists of empirical generalisations about observable entities. And nally, there is yet another (higher) level: the theoretical framework of scientic theories, which posits unobservable entities and laws about them. It is part of this image that while the observational framework is explanatory of observable entities, the theoretical framework explains the inductively established generalisations of the observational framework. But then, Sellars says, the empiricist will rightly protest that the higher level is dispensable. For all the explanatory work vis--vis the bottom level is done by the observational framework and its inductive generalisations. Why then posit a higher level in the rst place? Sellarss reply was that the unobservables posited by a theory explain directly why (the individual) observable entities behave the way they do and obey the empirical laws they do (to the extent that they do obey such laws). He, therefore, oered an indispensability 379

Speculations III argument for the existence of unobservable entities: they are indispensable elements of scientic explanation of singular observable phenomena. In his brief review of Smarts book in 1964, Quine exclaimed: With science dominating our lives and progressing ever faster on even more frontiers, it is strange that such a view [the realistic view of fundamental particles of physics] needs urging. Strange but true. But by then, the tide had started to move the scientic realists way. Putnam expressed this by his famous slogan, which has become known as the no miracles argument: The positive argument for realism is that it is the only philosophy that does not make the success of science a miracle. In his widely circulated and discussed, but still unpublished, manuscript Realism and Scientic Epistemology, Richard Boyd tied the defence of scientic realism with the best explanation of the fact that scientic methodology has succeeded in producing predictively reliable theories. Boyd viewed scientic realism as an historical thesis about the operation of scientic methodology and the relation between scientic theories and the world. As such, realism is not a thesis only about current science; it is also a thesis about the historical record of science: it claims that there has been convergence to a truer image of the world, even though past theories have been known to have been mistaken in some respects. This historical dimension is necessary if the truth (or partial truth, or signicant truth) of scientic theories is to be admitted as the best explanation of the predictive reliability of methodology. For, as noted already, unless continuity-in-theory-change and convergence are established, past failures of scientic theories will act as defeaters of the view that current science is currently on the right track. If, however, realism aims to explain an historical truthviz., that scientic theories have been remarkably successful in the prediction and control of natural phenomenathe defence of scientic realism can only be a posteriori and broadly empirical. Couldnt scientic realism be lightweight? Would it not be enough for someone to accept the reality of unobservable entities without also rendering them mind-independent? 380

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns And wouldnt this move bring scientic realism in contact with empirical realism and in freedom from metaphysical realism and/or transcendental realism? Well, a lot depends on how exactly the claim of mind-independence should best be understood. I take it that the sense in which realists claim that the world is independent of theories, beliefs, warrants, epistemic practices, etc. is best captured by admitting the possibility of divergence between what there is in the world and what is issued as existing by an epistemically right theory, which is licensed by the (best or even ideal) evidence or other epistemic criteria. It is precisely for this reason that realists need to rely on a non-epistemic conception of truth (the most popular, and controversial, of which is that truth is correspondence with the facts), which does allow for the foregoing possibility. When truth is attributed to the theory, this is a substantive attribution which is meant to imply that the theory is made true by the world, which, in its turn, is taken to imply that it is logically possible that an accepted and well-conrmed theory might be false simply because the world might not conform to it. A realist non-epistemic conception of truth, and in particular the possibility of divergence, does justice to the hard-won fact of empirical success and convergence of scientic theories. Given that there is no guarantee that science converges to the truth, or that whatever scientists come to accept in the ideal limit of inquiry or under suitably ideal epistemic conditions will (have to) be true, the claim that science does get to the truth (based mostly on explanatory considerations of the sort we have already seen) is quite substantive and highly non-trivial. If, on the other hand, the possibility of divergence is denied, the explanation of the success of science becomes almost trivial: success is guaranteed by a suitably chosen epistemic notion of truth, sinceultimatelyscience will reach a point in which it will make no sense to even raise the question of whether there is possible gap between the way the world is described by scientic theories and the way the world is.


Speculations III FG: Thanks, that was an excellent survey indeed! Now, for the second point. To start with, as a philosopher of science with an analytic background what is your relationship, if any, to the continental tradition? You authored a Philosophy of Science A-Z text,8 which includes entries on notable philosophers of science: the closest one of these gets to being considered continental is perhaps Pierre Duhem, hardly a central gure in the continental canon. I take your choices not as prejudiced or idiosyncratic, but dictated by the necessity of faithfully representing the discipline as it is practiced, with its themes and central gures. Are students trained in the analytic tradition of philosophy of science exposed to any non-analytic material? SP: A lot depends on how we should understand the so-called continental tradition. As you have seen from my previous answer, I have been inuenced by many continental thinkers, though they are not in the canon of what is called continental philosophy. But what exactly is continental philosophy? Are we thinking in terms of the Franco-German tradition in contradistinction to the Anglo-American one? But let us not forget that analytic philosophy, let alone analytic philosophy of science, would be nowhere if it were not for certain strands within the Franco-German tradition: from Frege, to the neoKantians, to Wittgenstein, to the French conventionalists, to the Logical Positivists. When I try to picture the so-called continental tradition, I see some schools of philosophy, like phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, hermeneutics and post-modernism. Is there anything that unies them into a single tradition? Perhaps it is that they are subject-centered; perhaps it is that they are based on narratives rather than rigorous arguments and conceptual analysis; perhaps it is that they are anti-science (in the sense that they bracketto say the leastthe scientic image of the world and are indierent to the possible relevance of scientic ndings to
8 Stathis Psillos, Philosophy of Science A-Z (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns philosophy and its methods); perhaps it is they take the key task of philosophy to be to unravel how the subject is related to the world of experience and what categories constitute this relation; perhaps it is the thought that there are no external (non-subjective, non-textual, non-what-have-you) standards of correctness of philosophical theory; perhaps it is all (or some) of the above in various blends. I do not think this kind of search (for the blueprint of continental philosophy) is either protable or interesting. I prefer to look into individual thinkers and schools (with some order of preferenceI would never bother much with Heidegger!), and to try to nd out whether what they say, or argue for, can help us better to understand some philosophical problem. I am deeply impressed, for instance, by Hegels critique of mechanism and I have argued that the key problem he raised, viz., that mechanisms are individuated functionally and hence that their boundaries and composition are relative to the function they are taken to perform, is signicant for the current debate about mechanisms in the philosophy of science. Or take Husserls The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. This is a really signicant piece. Husserl was very critical of the bottomless theorising that characterised the exact sciences. His criticism of the modern (post-Galilean) science and of the mathematisation of nature on which it was basing its search for objectivity is that in this process, science lost contact with the world of subjective experience. He took as the task of his own philosophy to rehabilitate subjectivity. He then urged that scientic objectivism be bracketed and that philosophy (that is, his own phenomenology) focuses on the life-world; the actually intuited, actually experienced and experienceable world.9 I happen to disagree with the way Husserl prioritises the life-world. But the problem he raisesthe relation between the world as it is described by science and the world as we experience itis profound and you can nd variations of it both Carnaps The Logical Structure
9 Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 50.


Speculations III of the World and in Sellarss famous discussion of the relation between the scientic image and the manifest imagewhere the category of person is ineliminable. Here we are talking about three dierent perspectives on the same philosophical issue and the classication of these perspectives in the categories continental and analytic would simply distort their signicance. Or take Althusserian Marxism and its insistence on the structure over the subject as well as the need for science to break free from ideology (though, as Althusser himself admitted, his early distinction was too theoretical). This is not the place to go into details, but my view is that modern structuralist tendencies in the philosophy of science have a lot to learn from the French structuralist tradition (especially when it comes to the social world and the social sciences). It is true, however, that there is little communication between analytic philosophers and continental philosophers and that this is partly due to the fact that philosophical training has been identied with the immersion within a tradition and its own ways to raise and to articulate philosophical problems and to determine what counts as the right approach or answer to them. I would not surprise anyone if I said that I simply cannot get a grip on what some continental philosophers say, though I can more easily associate with them when what they argue is translated (perhaps by someone conversant in both traditions) into the language of the philosophical conceptual framework I relate with. In recent years, there have been systematic attempts by various analytic philosophers to immerse themselves into the views of the continental thinkersand this is quite heartening, if only because, if you think of it, the split between the so-called analytic and the so-called continental philosophy is a historical event that took place within a single philosophical framework. It is related (to some extent at least) to the split of Kantianism into two neo-Kantian schools who disagreed as to how best they were supposed to develop the key Kantian points after the collapse of the neat way in which Kants described how knowledge is possible. Those in Marburg 384

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns took mathematics and the natural sciences as the models of objectivity and knowledge and aimed to remove all intuition from knowledge, while those in Baden focused on values and their role in knowledge, turning their attention to history and the human sciences and aiming to unveil their peculiarities vis--vis the natural sciences. Whichever way to look at it, both the analytic and the continental traditions are heirs to the network of problems, concepts, methods and theories that constitute the lore of philosophy from Plato to old Kant. When it comes to philosophy of science in particular, it is signicant that analytic philosophers of science have started to take notice of the tradition of historical epistemology what is simply called epistemology in many continental countrieswhich is a genuinely historical and contextual approach to conceptual and philosophical problems in the sciences. This encounter should ideally lead to a new synthesis between historical approaches to science and philosophy of science. FG: Right, lets pursue this further. I feel that its still reasonable to say that this neat disciplinary division in the philosophy of science can perhaps be traced along two lines. First, as you just mentioned, the importance (or lack thereof) attributed to historical concerns. This might be a sweeping statement if we consider the analytic tradition as a whole, but it seems to be fair if we consider the philosophy of science (moreover, I think that there is some truth in the claim that historical interests in analytic philosophy, while not absent, tend to be located on the meta-philosophical level rather than organic parts of the construction of an argument). This is arguably a consequence of the logical empiricist collapsing of the traditional disciplinary distinction between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften (essentially in favour of the former), one which took shape in the Carnapian unity of science program and which strictly conned cultural objects outside of the mandate of science. Little more than a decade later Edmund Husserl laments precisely this positivistic reduction of philosophy (and science itself, both somewhat subsumed in the German term Wissenschaft) to a narrow concern with a factual objectivity ex385

Speculations III punged of the concern for human questions and, in a memorable line, claims that Positivism, in a manner of speaking, decapitates philosophy.10 He goes on to denounce the navete through which objectivist science takes what it calls the objective world for the universe of all that is, without noticing that no objective science can do justice to the [very] subjectivity which accomplishes science.11 Scientic objectivity, an ethical imperative to be reached for the Husserl of the Crisis, is ultimately grounded in a lifeworld (Lebenswelt) of intersubjectively, historically constituted cultural formations. Even outside the Husserlian phenomenological legacy, continental philosophy of science, in particular the French epistemological tradition running (roughly) from Emile Meyerson to Michel Foucault through Leon Brunscvicg, Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem, was composed by thinkers with a scientic background who put a premium on a philosophico-historical analysis that would emphasize the discontinuities of science. These would be often caused by those psychological, (inter-)subjective preconceptions (epistemological obstacles as Bachelard named them) which are to be accounted for if we are to oer an account of science as actually practiced by human subjects. A far cry from Carnaps antipsychologism guiding, in the Aufbau, his rational reconstruction [rationale Nachkonstruktion] of the concepts of all elds of knowledge on the basis of concepts that refer to the immediately given.12 Canguilhem well synthesizes the spirit of French pistmologie in one paragraph:
The history of sciences is not the progress of sciences in reverse, i.e. the putting into perspective of outmoded stages whose truth is today on the point of disappearing. It is an eort to enquire into and give an understanding of the extent to which outmoded notions or attitudes or methods were, in their time, successful; and consequently of the respect in which the outmoded past remains the past of an activity for which it is necessary to retain the term
10 Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 9. 11

Ibid., 294-295.

Rudolf Carnap, The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudoproblems in Philosophy (Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2003), v.


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns

scientic. To understand what gave instruction in its time is as important as exposing the reasons for its destruction by what followed.13

Of course, Thomas Kuhn acknowledged Meyerson among his key inuences, but the Kuhn-inspired historical turn seems to have de-legitimized itself (in the eyes of most philosophers of science) with what were perceived as post-Kuhnian relativist excesses (from Paul Feyerabends methodological anarchism to David Bloor and Barry Barnes strong programme in the sociology of scientic knowledge) with the result that today mainstream philosophy of science remains well insulated from those projects of science studies that aim at placing science in its historical (but also gendered and social) context. I personally think this is for the worse, and I see much value in the recent, more regulated, return to a merging of history and philosophy of science (hps) in the so called Integrated hps (or &hps) projects,14 (in which I think you are personally involved, being among the organizers of the 4th international Integrated hps Conference, which was held in Athens last March). hps can help re-conceptualize episodes and concepts from the history of science from being the province of antiquarian interest to the living eld of original philosophical work. As Hasok Chang recently put it history-writing can be a very eective method of philosophical discovery.15 What is your position regarding this split along historicist lines? Does the hps trend hold the promise to eectively integrate analytic philosophy of science with historical research, and could this be an occasion for rapprochement between the two traditions? SP: Its obvious from what I said above that we agree on quite a bit. But I disagree with Husserls judgement on Positivism.

Georges Canguilhem in Gary Gutting, Continental Philosophy of Science (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 201.

For an overview of this project, see Seymour Mauskopf and Tad Schmaltz, Integrating History and Philosophy of Science. Problems and Prospects (Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer, 2011) and the issue of Isis (199:1, 2008) with a focus on Changing Directions in History and Philosophy of Science.
14 15

Hasok Chang in Integrating History and Philosophy of Science, 111.


Speculations III Recall that his claim was against positivism as the dominant ideology for doing science: science is only concerned with experience and with getting the facts right. I am not sure any serious philosopher (not even Comte himself) held this view. Clearly this was not the view of the Logical Positivists and Husserl was aware of this. So if we take the in a manner of speaking seriously in his dictum, he might well be making a good point! But he too felt that the Logical Positivists approach was a weapon against irrationalism. Their criticism of traditional speculative metaphysics was meant to reshape philosophy in such a way that it is brought (again) in contact with science and rigorous conceptual tools and methods (broadly borrowed from logic and mathematics). So Id say that positivism, in a manner of speaking, liberated philosophy. Its true though that the Logical Positivists had had little time for history (though not for subjectivity and its place in the theory of knowledge). This is somewhat ironic since, at least until they were forced, by the rise of the Nazis in power, to leave the Continent (Schlick, as is well known, was assassinated in the staircase of the University of Vienna), they were the true heirs of the philosophies of science of Poincar, Duhem and Mach; philosophies of science which were deeply immersed in history. But the insensitivity to history was, in a sense, necessary for what the logical positivists took as their immediate task, which is this: how to reconcile the emerging new scientic image of the world with the collapse of the Kantian theory of knowledge, without at the same time jettisoning the Kantian idea of the spontaneity of understanding. Fullling this task requires an orchestrated philosophical act, one key element of which is clarifying the conceptual foundations of the new scientic theories (so that what they say of the worldtheir factual contentbecomes as clear as possible), the other key element being the need to reformulate and reshape the standard philosophical categories by means of which the analysis and criticism of knowledge is eected. In this process, the very idea of intuition and of synthetic a priori knowledge of the world had to go; better: synthetic a priori principles were reconceived as analytic and yet revisable 388

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns framework-dependent principles. It was in this context that Schlick attacked Husserls Wesenschau (intuition of essences). He thought that empiricism could accommodate subjectivity without having recourse to sense-intuition or to substantive synthetic a priori principles. No special intuition of essences was necessary for knowing the structure of experience. The so-called phenomenological propositions, far from being part of the structure of the life-world, were analytic principles having to do with the structure of language. However, the very idea that the remnant of the Kantian spontaneity of understanding was to be found in framework-dependent and hence revisable general principles had a deep (if implicit) historical motivation, viz. the presence of revolutions in science. The synchronic logical analysis of the language and concepts of science that the positivists pursued was predicated on the thought that the form of the scientic method (aka inductive logic) is diachronic (and hence, essentially historically invariant), while its content is historically variable. Philosophy abhors vacuum, so the historical method that Duhem and Poincar (as well as Mach) had followed in their philosophies of science was picked up by the French epistemologists of the school of Gaston Bachelard. But I take it that there was a lot of uncertainty as to how exactly history should be an integral part to philosophy of science. Back in 1906, Duhem was quite clear about the importance of the historical method:
The legitimate, sure, and fruitful method of preparing a student to receive a physical hypothesis is the historical method. To retrace the transformations through which the empirical matter accrued while the theoretical form was rst sketched; to describe the long collaboration by means of which common sense and deductive logic analysed this matter and modelled that form until one was exactly adapted to the other; that is the best way, surely even the only way, to give to those studying physics a correct and clear view of the very complex and living organization of this science.16

Duhem, Pierre, The aim and structure of physical theory, trans. P. Wiener


Speculations III The historical methodthe historical investigation of the conceptual processes that led to an adaptation between matter (empirical laws) and form (mathematics)was taken to be an essential way to do philosophy of science. This is because the historical point-of-view unravels the constitutive interplay between empirical-factual investigations and mathematicalformal frameworks in the development of scientic theories. Admittedly, Duhem tied his historical turn to a certain historiography of science, viz. one that stressed the elements of continuity and rejected the view of theory-change as the way Athena emerging fully armed from Zeuss head. Hence, he was using history as a guide to the future: as a way to show how there can be revolutions without incommensurability; how the physics of each epoch is nourished by past physics and is pregnant with the physics of the future. The view of the role of history shaped by the French epistemologists seems to me to be far more radical than Duhems. I think its forebear is Emile Boutroux, who argued for the presence of genuine irreducible contingency in the world and took it that according to this doctrine it is erroneous and chimerical to attempt to reduce history to a simple deduction. Furthermore, he argued that it is notthe nature of things that should be the nal object of our scientic investigations, it is their history,17 which, incidentally, he took it to be the locus of objectivity. The French epistemologists extended these ideas to the very nature of science, arguing that science is essentially historical (no core themes, methods, etc.), the object of science (and concomitantly) the object of philosophy of science being historically variable. This way to view science leads to particularism, and particularism (when fully developed) is self-defeating. Unless all these activities that are classied under science have some general and shareable characteristics, it is hard to see what makes them science; what unites them under a common rubric?
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1906), 268-269. It is clear from the context that Duhem meant it as a general method for the study of science.
17 Emile Boutroux, The Contingency of the Laws of Nature. (Chicago and London: Open Court, 1920), 166,167.


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns When Thomas Kuhn pleaded for a role of history in the introductory chapter of The Structure of Scientic Revolutions, he was fully aware that history did already have a roleespecially among the French epistemologists. So, his plea was for a new role for history, and in particular one that was based on the rejection of the cumulative-developmental model of science. There is, certainly, a way in which history was assigned a new role within general philosophy of science and this was related to the structure and the testing of the macro-models of scientic growth that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Models of scientic growth, such as Kuhns and Lakatoss, presented the unit of scientic appraisal (the scientic paradigm, the scientic research programme) as an evolving dynamic structure that follows a rather tight historical pattern. Kuhn emphasised both the element of historical tradition that characterises normal science (seen primarily as a rule-governedor exemplar governedactivity) as well as the element of change that characterises revolutionary episodes (seen primarily as an abrupt change not-fully-accounted-for in terms of reason and evidence). Lakatos stressed the element of continuity and looked for clear-cut criteria of progressiveness in the transition from one research programme to another, which could underpin a notion of developmental rationality of science. But both took issue with a conception of science in general which had taken it to be subject to rules by means of which theories are appraised (e.g., a formal system of inductive logic and degrees of conrmation). And both took it that their macro-models of science reectedand hence were licensed bythe actual historical development and succession of scientic theories. The genie of history was out of the bottle but I feel there still a lot of uncertaintyamong philosophers of scienceas to what wishes to make. If we were to think of the matter a bit abstractly, we could distinguish the following ways in which history of science and philosophy of science can be related. (1) Philosophy of science is an essentially ahistorical discipline dealing with the logical analysis of the structure and concepts of science. If there is any role for history of science, 391

Speculations III it is merely its role as the past of science: it is either a narrative as to how concepts evolve or a source of examples. (2) Philosophy of science is the theory of historically individuated macro-models of theory development. History of science is then conceived of as the domain of application (and testing) of these models. (3) Philosophy of science involves a historical dimension in searching (in an a posteriori fashion) for the forms and justication of general rules and methods of sciencewhat came to be known as methodological naturalism. (4) Philosophy of science is the rational reconstruction of the history of science and as such it relies on the history of science for warranted descriptions of how past scientists have actually practised science. I am not claiming that this list is exhaustive. Nor it is the case that these four points of view are totally independent from each other (especially the approaches 2 to 4). But what they all have in common is that they promote a kind of philosophy-infested history of science; that is, a reading of the history of science in which that criteria of relevance are xed by philosophical considerations. Its time for a renegotiation and re-appraisal of the relations between the history of science and the philosophy of science. Its not the case that there should be just one correct way in which history of science should be related to philosophy of science and a lot of insight will be gained by exploring the various ways in which philosophy of science and history of science could interact. I have tried to clear some of the ground for a renegotiation of the relation between philosophy of science and history of science in a very recent piece of mine called What is General Philosophy of Science?, which appeared in a special issue of the Journal for General Philosophy of Science. I would recommend a New Deal. The model I would promote is based, roughly, on the dipole idealisation/de-idealisation. Much of philosophy of science involves idealisationswhat Alexander Koyr aptly called structural schemata. This is inevitable if a general view about science, its structure, methods and concepts is to be had. It is inevitable if we move beyond particularism and have a view of science-in-general. This is the proper subject matter 392

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns of philosophy of science. But this drive towards idealization and abstraction, towards an idealized view of science, is essentially incomplete; it leaves out of the picture a lot of the ne structure of science. An important way to reveal this ne structure, I think, is to use history of science as a de-idealiser, thereby getting a more accurate representation of the cluster of activities (and the various determinants) that constitute science. To put it bluntly, idealized (philosophical) models explain but do not represent; while de-idealised (historical) models represent but do not explain. Ideally, we need a new balanced relation. When you do philosophy of science, it is inevitable that the reading of history will be based, ultimately, on philosophical criteria of relevance. But this does not entail that a proper understanding of the history of scienceone licensed by historical methodswill leave our philosophical conception of science intact. Integrated hps is certainly on the right track. I feel, however, that it has not yet managed to mobilise historians of science to the extent that it is necessary for a partnership of equals to get o the ground. FG: I guess that from a more properly philosophical standpoint the question is: to what extent, if at all, does historical awareness in philosophy of science undermine our faith in the correctness of our theories, the reliability of our methods or even in our theories ability to refer to an external, theory-independent world? Does such an historical reconstruction inevitably lead into a Laudanlike pessimistic meta-induction and ultimately to some form of anti-realism? SP: This is a good guess! Note, though, that things were not like that in the beginning of the twentieth century, when what should be properly called historical philosophy of science was formed. I have spoken already about the bankruptcy of science debate and how Poincar and Duhem were trying to restore some warranted belief in scientic rationality and progress. The point is that the study of the history of science does not necessarily undermine the philosophical view that as science advances there is convergence to a stable network 393

Speculations III of principles and theories about the deep structure of the world; to truer theories, as I would put it. In fact, a proper appreciation of the history of science delivers a mixed message: there is change and continuity; rupture and stability. This is no news, of course. Already in 1900, Boltzmann addressed the historical principle employed by the phenomenologists, viz., that hypotheses are essentially insecure because they tend to be abandoned and replaced by other, totally dierent ones. Against this historical principle, he argued that despite the presence of revolutions in science, there is enough continuity in theory change to warrant the claim that some achievements may possibly remain the possession of science for all time.18 To be sure, we realists need to do a bit more work here. Two moves are really important. The rst is to make the claim of convergence plausible, viz., to show that there is continuity in theory-change and that this is not merely empirical continuity; substantive theoretical claims that featured in past theories and played a key role in their successes (especially novel predictions) have been incorporated in subsequent theories and continue to play an important role in making them empirically successful. But making this rst move does not establish that the convergence is to the truth. For this claim to be made plausible a second move is needed, viz., that the emergence of this stable network of theoretical assertions is best explained by the assumption that it is, by and large, approximately true. This is, roughly put, the role of the no-miracles argument. In doing all this, current theories constitute the vantage point from which we examine old onescould there be any other vantage point? Yet, the identication of the sources of success of past theories need not be performed from this vantage point. Note that those who think that the history of science will necessarily lead to a pessimistic conclusion, viz., that current theories too are likely to be false and abandoned, rely on various illicit philosophical assumptions that can be unearthed
18 Ludwig Boltzmann The Recent Development of Method in Theoretical Physics, The Monist 11 (1900): 253.


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns and challenged. One of them is an uncompromising holism regarding the conrmation of theories; another is a theory of meaning and reference that leaves no room for semantic bridges between distinct theories. The point that I am trying to make is that in this debate there is no neutral use of the history of sciencethe history of science does not speak with the voice of an angel. I take seriously Canguilhems dictum that Without epistemology, it would thus be impossible to distinguish two kinds of history of science, that of superseded knowledge and that of sanctioned, that is, still actual because acting, knowledge. FG: Back to the division between the two traditions. I think that a second split line can be traced back to the notorious CarnapHeidegger controversy about the role that modern logic should play in the development of future philosophy, about the legitimate employment of language (and arguably, about the political nature of the social reform that both perceived as necessary) but mostly about what the overcoming/abandonment of metaphysics really should amount to.19 Even after the abandonment of the logical empiricist program, and the consequent rehabilitation of a range of metaphysical concerns, analytic philosophy still presents an hostility (or indierence) to that tradition of fundamental ontology, that kind of Aristotelian rst philosophy concerned with being qua being, that came back to the fore in the wake of Heideggers project of answering the question of the meaning of Being. Todays analytic metaphysics is organized around the problems of modality, of dening space and time, of causation, personal identity and free will, and hardly address the issue of Being (indeed, I think that a rough but ecient rule of thumb to distinguish a piece of analytic philosophy from a continental one is to count the occurrences of
19 The classic reference for this debate remains Michael Friedman, A Parting of Ways: Carnap, Cassirer and Heidegger (Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1990), but Abraham Stone recently proposed a slightly dierent take on the disagreement between the two philosophers, downplaying their disagreement over issues of logical consistency and emphasizing those regarding the allowed uses of language in his Heidegger and Carnap on the Overcoming of Metaphysics in Martin Heidegger, ed. Stephen Mulhall (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006).


Speculations III Being as a noun). In Heideggers eyes, what contemporary philosophy of science refers to as metaphysical commitments would amount to a mere ontic project of identifying existent entities, rather than a properly ontological inquiry of Being itself. On the other hand, post-Heideggerian continental philosophy has kept referring to Being in its ontological (but post-metaphysical) projects, especially in the work of realist thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou, the former reactivating a tradition of univocity of Being which runs back to Duns Scotus, the latter reformulating the question of being in mathematical terms. This disagreement regarding the possibility of ontology can be seen as rooted in a dierent relationship with the natural sciences. From your standpoint, does it make any sense, today, to pursue the question of what Being is or means over and above what current best science tells us about the fundamental constituents of the universe, or is such a question a vestigial problem, a relic of medieval scholasticism or a Heideggerian hangover?20 SP: I would not trust Heidegger too much! And I doubt he should be given too much credit anyway. If one were to answer the question what is metaphysics? by trying to read Heideggers homonymous lecture, one would get a very distorted and perplexing idea of what it is all about. Id say: if you want to do metaphysics (and to see metaphysics at its best) start straight from its source: Aristotle. The question of being is central to his Metaphysics. But more importantly, Aristotle suggests that there are two questions to be asked. One is what kinds of things there are (what kinds of being are), while the other is what it is for something to be: what is being. It might well turn out that these two questions are interconnected. But their conceptual separation makes metaphysics possible as a distinct and distinctive enterprise. For the second question can be asked only within metaphysics; it arises from a genuine metaphysical aporia. It transcends the
20 I borrow this expression from Adrian Johnston, Humes Revenge: Diex Meillassoux? in The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism edited by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (Melbourne: Re.Press, 2010), 110.


Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns bounds of the individual sciences, since the latter investigate the being-under-a-description, and hence some part of it, say the physical or the biological world (1003a22-26). Metaphysics is the science of essence; of being qua being. But Aristotle wanted to put metaphysics in the service of sciencewhat he called episteme. The fundamental structure of reality (ultimately comprising primary substances, essences (or essential properties qua universals) and accidental properties (symvevikota) grounded the possibility of episteme and made episteme a distinctive kind of knowing (qua general, explanatory and necessary). His account of scientic knowledge (in Posterior Analytics) goes hand in hand with his account of the fundamental structure or being (in Metaphysics). If we take Aristotle seriously, adding the adjective analytic to metaphysics is a pleonasm. I take it that the immediate rival to analytic metaphysicians (would it not be better to be called metaphysicists?) is the metaphysics-free tradition within analytic philosophy that was associated with Humean empiricism and later on with logical positivism. Could it then be that the addition of analytic is meant to make (pre-Kantian) metaphysics more palatable? Metaphysics is inevitablethe only question is: how much of it is necessary? Now, one may ask: necessary for what? To put it poetically, metaphysics lls the cracks of the scientic image of the world (in its totality and interconnectedness). To put it more theoretically, metaphysics secures the coherence of the scientic image of the world. I very much doubt that it makes sense to do metaphysics in complete isolation from what science tells us about the world, but I also think that science does not dictate a unique conception of the metaphysical structure of the world; of the kinds of beings there are; of the kinds of connections there are among them; of the basic characteristics that they have to have in order for the world to have unity and coherence. Science goes a long way, but not all the way (ultimately, it cannot settle the question of being qua being). Think of the question of what, and how many distinct, categories of being need to be presupposed by a coherent conception of 397

Speculations III realitythis is the problem of nominalism versus realism about universals. Or think of the question of whether there is sui generis power in the world which grounds and explains the regularity there is in it, or whether it is regularities all the way down, as I am fond of sayingthis is the problem of the nature of causation. Or think of the question of whether some kinds of properties are constitutive of the kind of being something that there is is or whether all properties are on a parthis is the question of essentialism. These are typically metaphysical questions whose answer should certainly be constrained by what we know of the world via science; but they are clearly underdetermined by what science tells us about the world. If you think of it, this situation is not terribly odd or unfamiliar. Scientic theories themselves are underdetermined by the empirical evidence and yet there are plausible criteria to break ties of empirical equivalence: empirical equivalence does not entail epistemic equivalence. The situation is essentially the same with metaphysics: the name of the game is inference to the best explanation. Metaphysical hypotheses about the structure of the world might not explain in precisely the same way in which scientic hypotheses about unobservables explain, but they do play an important explanatory role by enhancing the unity and coherence of the scientic image of the world. When the logical positivists attacked metaphysics, they were not in the business of taking explanatory criteria as decisive. A.J. Ayer famously took it that whats wrong with metaphysics is that it promises knowledge of reality which transcended the world of experience. He was right that there is no special non-empirical method of acquiring knowledge of the world. But he was wrong to restrict the empirical methods of science to those allowed by vericationism. Be that as it may, vericationism was a natural (if exaggerated) reaction to the speculative metaphysics of German idealism and its successors. Heidegger, for instance, thought that the inquiry about what he called the nothing (the non-being) is a central preoccupation of metaphysics, which sets it apart from science (of which Heidegger said that it wishes to know 398

Stathis Psillos Of Realist Turns nothing about the nothing). Carnap was fully justied to take on this conception of metaphysics and to argue that it fails to express genuine propositions. Here again, Carnap was taking metaphysics to be an endeavor to discover and formulate a kind of knowledge which is not accessible to empirical science, perhaps by means of special inferences that may begin from experience but transcending experience. This is something that Heidegger and co. may well have been fond of. But explanatory methods (which are legitimately employed in science) might well take us beyond experience without transcending it (at least in the technical philosophical sense of transcendence). In 1957, when Carnap added some remarks to the English translation of The Elimination of Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language he noted that his early reactions to metaphysics did not apply to attempts towards a synthesis and generalization of the results of the various sciences. When philosophers like Quine (and Sellars) made room for explanation, metaphysics (properly understood as not relying on sui generis methods and inferences) started to become legitimate again. Quine was sharply critical of Carnaps point that ontological questions could be asked in two distinct ways: as external questions and as internal ones. Carnap, famously, excluded external theoretical questions: questions about the reality of a general type (or category) of entity which are supposed to be settled by looking for (empirical) evidence for the reality of this type or by insight into the metaphysical structure of the world. Questions concerning the reality of a type of entity, Carnap argued, are legitimate and have content, but only if they are taken to be either external practical questions concerning the benets of adopting a certain framework which includes this type of entity in its basis ontic inventory or as internal theoretical questions concerning the evidence there is for (or other reasons for accepting the reality of) certain tokens of this type, but only after a framework has been adopted. Despite his trenchant criticism of Carnaps dichotomy, Quine did agree with Carnap on a fundamental point, viz., that there is no theory-free standpoint from which what there is can be 399

Speculations III viewed. But he took this denial of a theory-free vantage point to imply that there is no sharp line between theoretical issues (or questions) and practical ones. Ontological questions (questions about what there is) are theoretical questions as well as practical ones: they are answered by our best theory and there is no extra-theoretical court of appeal. Already in Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Quine had argued for the blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. If explanation-based metaphysics is allowed, where does one stop? Should, for example, a scientic realist adopt neoAristotelianism simply on the basis that it is the best explanation of, say, the neo-Humean account of the world? My own view on this matter comes to this. We should certainly take ibe seriously, but it can be contested that neo-Aristotelianism does indeed meet the best explanation test. One particularly acute problem is that all the denizens of the neo-Aristotelian world (powers, metaphysical necessities, dispositional essences and the like) are themselves unexplained explainers. Though everyone should accept some unexplained explainers, in this particular case, they are more poorly understood than the Humean facts that they are supposed to explain. Another problem, noted above, is that it is not clear at all how all these heavy metaphysical commitments are related to current scientic theories. The fact is that this kind of neo-Aristotelianismand its commitment to heavy-duty metaphysicshas become a major force in current analytic metaphysics. And it also true that it is being developed (to a large extent at least) in close connection with science. Unfortunately, not all current analytic metaphysics is in contact with current science. This raises a serious issue: what are the criteria of success in metaphysical theorising? It cannot be merely internal consistency; the metaphysical theory must also be plausible. Since there is no a priori insight into plausibility, I think the plausibility ranking must be based on the ordinary defeasible criteria that are used in science to rank and evaluate competing theories. If all this sounds too shaky a groun